Bord na Móna to suspend peat harvesting

Bord na Móna has announced today, Tuesday, June 16, that it will suspend peat harvesting activities and prioritise peat rehabilitation.

Commenting on this announcement, Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, said that an enhanced bog rehabilitation scheme is currently being finalised by his department, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Workers have had to face constant uncertainty as a result of court and planning decisions in recent times. Following today’s decision by the board of Bord na Móna, I’m moving to accelerate measures to support alternative work opportunities in bog restoration and rehabilitation,” the minister said.

Just Transition means sustainable, long-term job creation. Bord na Móna is transforming into an enterprise with sustainability at its core, and one which can create jobs for many years into the future.

“Jobs in peat will make way for jobs in renewable energy, in bog rehabilitation and in other new business opportunities being developed by Bord na Móna. We must ensure workers and the midlands as a community are fully supported during this transition,” Minister Bruton added.

Bord na Móna has also said that affected workers will be reassigned into other areas focused on sustainability – where there will be no compulsory redundancies – a move that was welcomed by the minister.

“We are determined to secure sustainable, long-term employment and a Just Transition for workers and the midlands as a community. Bog rehabilitation not only will deliver an environmental dividend, it can also deliver a tourism dividend, with facilities which can be used by all,” he said.

At present, the Government has earmarked €36 million in support for Just Transition in the midlands:

  • €11 million Just Transition Fund. A first call for proposals is now open;
  • €5 million for an extensive bog rehabilitation scheme in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) land is underway, with Bord na Móna securing the contract;
  • €20 million for a new retrofitting initiative which will see houses grouped together and upgrades delivered in a cost-effective manner, starting with local authority social homes.

The minister said that he would be taking “immediate steps” to bring forward the National Oil Reserves Agency (Amendment) and Provision of Central Treasury Services legislation to establish the Climate Action Fund, and will publish the legislation this week.

The Climate Action Fund is one of four Project Ireland 2040 Investment funds, and will be established on a statutory basis. This legislation will allow the fund to be used to support measures related to Just Transition.

The minister also noted that the midlands may be able to benefit from the development of a Just Transition for coal regions in other parts of the EU.

Peat has been included in the Platform for ‘Coal Regions in Transition’ and work is underway to draw up a territorial plan for the region which is the first step in securing new EU Just Transition funding.

“It is important that the midlands can benefit from the EU Just Transition Fund in the same way as other coal regions. The budget for the fund is expected to increase from €7.5 billion to €40 billion over the period 2021-2027, and we will work to secure a significant increase in Ireland’s allocation as a result.

“The funding will support the re-skilling of workers; helping SMEs [small and medium enterprises] to create new economic opportunities; and overall diversifying economic activity, investing in the future of the most affected regions,” Minister Bruton concluded.