Draft Peatland Strategy treats science as something to be bargained away or traded against

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Responding today to the release of the Draft Peatlands Strategy, An Taisce has said that the Draft National Peatlands Strategy does not reflect scientific advice and is not evidence-based.

The draft treats science – and the scientific consensus on the future prospects for humanity without action on climate change – as capable of being bargained away, traded against, or ‘balanced’ against other factors. Such a view is the stuff of fantasy.

Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal.  Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.

The 2011 Bogland report by the EPA noted that the 10 million tonnes of annual emissions from peatland degradation and burning – equivalent to Ireland’s annual car emissions.

The EPA set out ten leading recommendations advising government that “the continued carbon emissions from peat burning are contrary to the national interest”.

Recommendations included the restoration of protected peatlands to stop carbon loss, and the management of non-designated peatlands (also to stop carbon loss), a review of the peat industry, and the creation of a National Peatland Park. Its recommendations also cover peatland management as well as reviewing the horticultural peat sector.

The EPA found Government policies “at odds with … international and national government policies and conventions, specifically those addressing climate change, biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability”.

Published in Oct 2013, the summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report stresses how we must decarbonise energy, and protect, enhance and restore carbon stores.

In other words, in trying to accommodate vested interests, the Draft Strategy is inconsistent with both international and domestic scientific advice on carbon management.

The Draft Strategy continues the wholesale policy failures of the past by not addressing the carbon emission impact of continuing peat extraction for electricity generation, domestic fuel and horticulture.

Mary Robinson, having reviewed the science, has noted how we need to massively reduce carbon emissions and take urgent steps to avert further carbon loss.  Protecting bogs plays an important part in protecting the climate.  Speaking in advance of the release of the IPPC’s recent summary Report, Mrs Robinson said:

There is a global limit on safe level of emissions. That means that major fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. That has huge implications for economic and social development.

The issue now is the timing and sequencing of planned exit strategies for peat, coal, oil and gas, and the relevant amounts to be left in the ground.

“The Draft is so removed from scientific realities it is a counter-productive document. And putting electoral considerations ahead of the needs of Ireland’s young generations is similarly counter-productive over the longer term”, concluded An Taisce policy director James Nix.


Taken from An Taisce’s press release



  1. In 2012 the Grantham Institute for Climate Change (based in Imperial College London) and the Carbon Tracker Initiative (an international NGO monitoring carbon emissions) published ‘Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets’. The document reveals that up to 80% of known fossil fuels are unburnable if the world is to have any chance of not exceeding global warming of 2oc – the level beyond which it becomes impossible to arrest runaway climate disruption.

The report estimated the amount of existing fossil fuel reserves which needed to be left in the ground based on the level of emissions control needed to maintain climate stability.

A precautionary approach means only 20% of total fossil fuel reserves can be burnt to 2050. As a result the global economy already faces the prospect of assets becoming stranded, with the problem only likely to get worse if current investment trends continue – in effect, a carbon bubble.

The issue is now how to achieve an effective global climate agreement and carbon charging regime which will secure this.

  1. See further Bill McKibben’s “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”?: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719.