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Ultimatum: EU threatens Ireland with legal action over peat-cutting

The European Commission is threatening Ireland with legal action if the country continues to allow the cutting of peat within Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

These SAC zones, according to the EU, are “designated areas of conservation for raised bogs and blanket bogs under the EU habitats directive.” According to the European Commission, both the European Green Deal and the 2023 Biodiversity Strategy identify peat bogs as “vital carbon sinks when healthy,” meaning these locations were an essential part of European green climate policy.

The Irish government must now halt peat cutting in these areas within two months, or be dragged before the European Court of Justice.

The dialogue over this issue has reportedly been “long,” with talks on the issue taking place between the EU and Irish government since as far back as 2011.

This Thursday, the commission “decided to issue an additional reasoned opinion to Ireland, which now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures.”

“Their protection and restoration assist Ireland in meeting its climate change goals not only in keeping the peat in the ground, but also by avoiding the very high carbon and other air-pollution emissions which are caused when peat is burned as a fuel,” the commission said.

The commission acknowledged that Irish authorities had taken action to stop cutting of peat and turf, but complained that “cutting activities are still ongoing and enforcement action appears to have stalled.”

Banning of peat cutting has been an extremely contentious topic within the government coalition, with Fine Gael TDs telling Green Party leader Eamon Ryan that the policy could even bring down the government.

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