Irish peatlands restoration project secures €10m in EU funding

2 Feb 2021

Mountlucas Bog, Co Offaly. Image: Bord na Móna

The Peatlands and People project aims to promote peatlands restoration as a positive step for climate action.

The European Commission has granted funding for an Irish initiative highlighting the importance of peatlands to the planet’s future. Through the EU Life programme, €10m has been awarded to the Peatlands and People project led Bord na Móna, which aims to engage with people in Ireland and across the EU about the benefits of peatlands restoration and how it can effect positive climate action.

Earlier this year, Bord na Móna confirmed it had formally ended all peat harvesting on its lands as part of its ‘brown to green’ strategy. It also recently launched a Peatlands Restoration plan, prioritising the conversion of peatlands from fossil fuel sources to large-scale carbon capture sites.

The semi-State company will run the Peatlands and People project with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, NUI Galway and Erinn Innovation. It will be co-financed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

‘Place a new value on the environment’

The project includes three initiatives. The first involves setting up a Peatlands Centre of Excellence to explore best practices in peatland restoration and how to monitor and analyse carbon fluxes. This is because peatlands are expected to store more carbon over time.

The second initiative is a Just Transition Accelerator programme. This will aim to support Ireland’s midlands economically in the transition to a low-carbon, circular environment. It will help local communities develop new sustainable products and services.

Finally, a People’s Discovery Attraction is planned for the midlands to engage members of the public with climate action and peatland restoration.

“Our peatlands are a precious resource in terms of storing carbon, restoring biodiversity and supporting local communities in new jobs taking care of our environment,” said Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD.

“The Peatlands Centre of Excellence, Just Transition Accelerator and the new Discovery Attraction supported by this EU Life project put the spotlight and investment where it should be; on peatlands and people.”

These initiatives are expected to contribute to the long-term implementation of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, which was revealed in 2019.

“The restoration and rehabilitation of Ireland’s peatlands is a critically important aspect of our response to the climate and biodiversity emergency,” said Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, TD.

“When healthy, these unique and precious habitats are home to some of our most threatened species and are among our best lines of defence against climate change by sequestering and storing carbon, reducing the impact of floods and filtering water. They are also places where people can experience the wonder of nature and nourish the deep connections that inspire us to protect it.”

Tom Donnellan, Bord na Móna’s chief executive, added: “I am particularly pleased that the project recognises that climate action doesn’t happen in isolation; it will require a new awareness and behaviour change across society.

“We have been through this fundamental change and I think we can show that you can achieve business growth and place a new value on the environment that sustains all of us.”

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021