The Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) has said it does not support the final report on peat use in horticulture claiming that recommendations go against Ireland’s commitment to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

The final report of the working group on the use of peat moss in the horticultural industry has been published this week (Monday, January 17).

The IPCC said that it recognises that viable peat alternatives have been identified by the working group, however, it is against the working group’s statement to continue peat extraction for horticulture until 2035.

The final report stated that the use of peat in horticulture should be phased out by 2035 at the latest, provided that alternative materials are available.

Peat harvesting

In a series of action, the government announced that it will commission experts to provide free advice to those wanting to extract peat, which must happen in compliance with the relevant regulations on bogs below 30ha.

In its announcement, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said that the “fastest route for the domestic industry appears to be small-scale extraction on previously drained sub-30ha bogs”.

The IPCC said it is “shocked” by the government which “gives with one hand and takes with the other”, considering previous investment in peatland restoration and its climate change obligations under EU law.

Instead of rehabilitating smaller bogs for wildlife purposes and climate mitigation, the DAFM will “provide free advice on how to finalise their destruction”, the organisation stated.

“The department has failed to put an end to the environmentally damaging practice of peat extraction for horticulture.”

The IPCC added that peat exportation remains unaddressed and that “peat sales from the amateur retail market” continue.

Another “disappointing announcement” sees Bord na Móna, a “climate solutions company”, adding 2,000t of horticultural peat to the market, according to the IPCC.

Peatland investment

The peatland charity said that it welcomed previously announced government investment and actions for the protection of the peatland ecosystem.

In 2020, that the Department of Environment, Climate Action and Communications invested €108 million and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media announced a further €5 million for peatland rehabilitation and restoration.

However, the IPCC concluded: “As one governmental department creates positive climate action and biodiversity policy, another department is eroding any progress made away.”