IE: New bill seeks to roll back peat harvesting regulations

The Horticultural Peat (Temporary Measures) Bill 2021 in Ireland is being put before Seanad Éireann by Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty, and Fianna Fáil senator Robbie Gallagher. 

According to the Oireachtas website, the bill “makes exceptional provisions for peat extraction for the purpose of horticulture for a temporary period in the public interest in order to mitigate the adverse consequences resulting from an interruption to supply.” The bill would roll back restrictions that were placed upon the industry in 2019, that required planning permission, in addition to EPA licensing, in order to conduct peat extraction.

In a statement on her website, Regina Doherty gave her reasons for putting forward the bill: “Because of current restrictions, producers have no option but to import peat from places such as Latvia. As it stands, there are no alternatives to peat as a growing media that are available, affordable, and sustainable.”

Indeed, Fine Gael party leader, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has also appeared to have softened his stance on peat production in recent weeks. In 2018, Varadkar’s promises to make Ireland a global leader in protecting the planet, backed by a €22bn government plan for climate action, called for a total move away from coal and peat reliance by the middle of the next decade. However, in the wake of COP26, Varadkar appeared to acknowledge that no suitable growing media had been found to replace peat. This statement was welcomed by many in the farming industry but has – when combined with the Temporary Measures Bill – been seen as a dangerous step backward by environmental groups.

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