The “particular circumstances” of Ireland and Irish farmers have not been taken into account by the European Commission’s plans for peatland rewetting.

The commission has compiled a draft regulation to go before the European Parliament and European Council that will set out a range of actions for “nature restoration”.

These cover a range of areas, including forestry and biodiversity.

However, the document’s targets for peatland rewetting will cause the most concern.

This proposal, which pertains to “drained peatlands under agricultural use” calls on member states to “put in place, without delay, restoration measures including rewetting”.

The targets are as follows:

  • By 2030 – restoration measures on 30% of these peatlands, of which at least a quarter must be rewetted;
  • By 2040 – restoration measures on 50% of these peatlands, of which at least half must be rewetted;
  • By 2050 – restoration measures on 70% of these peatlands, of which at least half must be rewetted.

As can be seen, the proposal will not require all peatlands to be rewetted. However, farming on targeted peatlands is still likely to be restricted under other types of restoration measures.

For example, the document outlines some ways in which restored or rewetted peatlands can used productively. However, these methods are far from the norm in Ireland and have no history of being practiced here.

Although this proposed regulation is some ways off from becoming an actual legally-binding policy, it has already received an unwelcome reception in Ireland.

When asked for a comment, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said: “The draft proposals coming from the commission seem to place a very high burden on Irish farmers.

“While they still need to go through the legislative process, with the European Parliament and the European Council having their say, I am worried that Ireland’s particular circumstances and the impacts on farmers – especially small farmers – has not been taken into account,” Kelleher added.

“This proposal is aimed at agricultural land. However, Ireland has some of the largest concentration of peatland in the EU, and Bord na Móna has already committed to rewetting 35,000ha of bog. This needs to be included in Ireland’s totals I believe.”

The MEP – who is a member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee – said: “I will follow this file closely when it comes before the [committee] to ensure it is fair and proportionate.”