Protection of our peatlands has been described by experts as the low hanging fruit in tackling the dual climate and biodiversity crises.
Today, however, most of our bogs are degraded - some beyond repair - due to industrial-scale peat extraction. The vast majority of this activity has taken place for decades without planning permission or any assessment for environmental impacts as required under EU law.
This is despite several rulings against such activity from An Bord Pleanála, as well as national and EU regulations that require planning and stringent environmental assessment for large-scale extraction.
The European Commission brought Ireland before the European Court of Justice in the 1990s for failure to ensure that peat projects are subject to environmental assessment, yet the problem continues. In July 2020, it warned that Ireland has three months to bring itself into compliance or it may bring us back to the courts.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We will investigate the extent of large-scale unlicensed peat extraction across the country and try to piece together, through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, why authorities at both a local and national level have failed to tackle the problem to date.
We will examine planning and regulatory issues currently at play in the Irish and European legal system and the impact that this may have on the future of peat extraction on our island.
We will speak to peatland experts to understand the scale of damage caused to the environment and what is required to turn our bogs from carbon sources into carbon sinks. We will also talk with business and tourism experts about opportunities offered by peatland restoration.
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