In November 2018, the Irish peat company, Bord na Mona, announced plans to close 17 of its active peat bogs, and to close the remaining 45 bogs by 2025. The cutting of turf in peat bogs is a traditional form of energy in Ireland, and was widely practiced across the country in its numerous peat bogs, such as in Kerry and Mayo in the west of Ireland. Peat was cut not only by Bord na Mona, but also by individual farmers, and the general public, wherever they had access to a peat bog.

However, peat as a form of energy has low calorific value (less than coal) but emits a large amount of carbon dioxide (more than coal). Nevertheless, following Irish independence in the 1920s, the Irish government was keen to develop peat as an energy source, owing to its widespread availability, and in an effort to reduce dependence on energy imports.

In recent years peat production has been falling. Production in 2015 was 3 million tonnes and is predicted to fall to 2 million tonnes by 2020 and to less than 1 million tonnes by 2025. Critics of the plan to close the peatbogs claim that it is all just ‘spin’. They argue that the peat bogs being closed down have been fully worked and are no longer profitable.

The Irish government is keen to be seen to be honouring its commitment to the Paris 2015 agreement on climate change. The phasing out of peat production will certainly help. However, in other areas its efforts have been less constructive. For example, in the Autumn budget (2018) the carbon tax was left at €20/tonne, despite the suggestion that it would rise. Moreover, the government has supported beef and dairy farmers, much to the ire of environmentalists.

As ever with environmental issues, what appears initially to be a good scheme, turns out to be less straightforward and a small part of a bigger picture.

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Article Peat harvesting to end as Ireland grapples with climate change