The EU is taking Ireland to court for failing to sufficiently protect peat bogs.

The European Commission says Ireland has failed to fulfil the requirements of the Habitats Directive “to protect sites designated for raised bog and blanket bog habitats from turf cutting.”

“The Habitats Directive requires Member States to designate their most precious natural habitats and to protect them from harmful activities. These sites in Ireland continue to be degraded through drainage and turf cutting activities, and insufficient action is being taken to restore the sites.” 

With increasing concern about climate change, bogs are also considered important carbon stores.

A recent UN report calculated Ireland’s degraded peat bogs as emitting “21.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year”, according to figures quoted by the European Commission.

For comparisons sake, Ryanair is estimated to have emitted 13 million tonnes of CO2 in 2023.

The European Commission has been threatening Ireland with court action since 2011. Today the EU said “despite some progress, the Irish authorities have not fully addressed the shortcomings.”

Peat bogs fall under the responsibility of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

In a statement the government department said “the state has invested significantly since 2011 in the conservation and restoration of our peatlands.”

“There has been a complete cessation of turf-cutting on almost 80% of the raised bog SACs since 2011 and a reduction of almost 40% on 2022 turf cutting levels in 2023 on raised bogs.”

“The Department will carefully consider the details of the case once papers are received from the European Commission regarding its referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union. In the meantime, the Department will continue to implement, prioritise, and advance measures to conserve our protected peatlands in consultation with stakeholders.”