Peatlands in Peril: Dublin Hosts Crucial Talks on the Fate of Europe’s Ecosystems

"European Countries Gather in Dublin to Discuss Peatland Conservation Initiatives"

Representatives from several European countries convened in Dublin on Monday, May 8th to participate in an event hosted by the Irish government to discuss the development of a European Peatlands Initiative (EPI), according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM). The objective of this development meeting was to strengthen existing ties between countries that share the common goal of restoring, conserving, and sustainably managing peatlands. By encouraging countries to work collaboratively, the EPI aims to preserve valuable peatlands across Europe and to play a significant role in driving action for nature, climate, and people globally.

Minister of State at the DAFM, Pippa Hackett, addressed the participants, emphasising the importance of driving peatland conservation and preservation as a shared effort with governments across Europe. The meeting in Dublin was seen as a crucial turning point for the EPI as it moves into the next phase of its creation. The EPI hopes to launch the Initiative in 2024. The next steps for the EPI, which will evolve over time according to the needs and challenges for Europe’s peatlands, were discussed at the event.

Minister Hackett noted that discussions around peat soils were particularly relevant in Ireland and specifically in her own area, the midlands. Peat soils under agricultural management represent around 7% of Ireland’s total agricultural area, a significant proportion of which is in the midlands. However, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge of the location, management, and emissions from drained organic soils under agricultural management. Further research is required to improve our understanding of peat soils.

The DAFM is committed to establishing a €15 million Midlands Carbon Catchment Study as part of the EU Just Transition Fund to pioneer research in reducing emissions from organic soils. Minister Hackett stated that it is essential to work with farmers at a catchment level to test new and novel ways of alternative and sustainable land management. This is another crucial step in developing pathways to emission reductions from farmed peat soils and researching ways of engaging and fully rewarding farmers for their efforts so that social and economic benefits are strengthened in tandem with environmental benefits.

The EPI now transitions from the exploratory phase, conducted by Bax and Company on behalf of the Irish government over the past year, which engaged over 150 participants across 15 countries, to the preparatory phase, according to the DAFM. Today’s meeting brought together policy makers, experts, and high-profile speakers to discuss the “tremendous efforts” being carried out for peatlands across European countries. Participants at the event included the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection; the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality; and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Peatlands Initiative.

The event included a visit to a blanket bog restoration project in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, which is a collaboration between Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Intel Corporation. The project involved the rewetting of 60 hectares of drained bog to increase water storage levels by 50-90 litres. The public-private project collaboration is one of the first of its kind in Ireland for water restoration and the protection of biodiversity, according to the DAFM.

Collaboration and dedication are key to advancing peatland conservation and restoration, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform at the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, said. “The Dublin meeting is poised to become a pivotal milestone for the European Peatlands Initiative, marking the beginning of a transformative and inspiring new chapter in our shared commitment to a sustainable future,” he said. Under Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2023, the protection, conservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of peatlands are a key commitment.

Categories: Agriculture