Pension funds buying Irish peatlands, Oireachtas committee hears – The Irish Times

Pension funds are beginning to buy up Irish peatlands, recognising their value in making quick gains in reducing carbon emissions, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Niall Ó Brolcháin, a research associate at the University of Galway, said peatlands offered the quickest gains in terms of reducing CO2 emissions and helping Ireland reach its greenhouse gas reduction targets. According to the United Nations, peatland stores twice the amount of carbon as the world’s forests.

Tuesday’s sitting of the Oireachtas Environment Committee, examining the issue, heard such land offered clear advantages to Ireland’s environmental interests.

However, Mr Ó Brolcháin said a group of leading peatland scientists have estimated that CO2 equivalent emissions from degraded and drained peatlands in Ireland equate to about 10 million tonnes a year. That is equivalent to the weight of every person in the country being emitted every two weeks. Globally, he said, peatland emissions amount to 5 per cent of the total, more than air travel and shipping combined.

“Peatlands are probably the biggest opportunity we have to make quick gains in relation to reducing CO2 emissions,” he said, in terms of restoring and rewetting land to retain carbon.

“Peatlands actually are the most efficient ecosystem in terms of carbon storage on the planet and we are absolutely blessed with them,” he said.

“We are already seeing large pension funds for example beginning to buy up a lot of peatlands in Ireland because they know what’s coming; they know what’s coming at a European level, at a global level and they are planning ahead. I far would prefer to see local communities benefitting rather than large multinational finance houses.”

The committee heard that while Ireland was quickly becoming the “poster boy” for peatland restoration, much more work was required.

Teagasc, the agricultural research authority, has commenced a number of projects aimed at better understanding the opportunities.

Its director Prof Frank O’Mara told the committee there were three areas of uncertainty they are currently researching: the total area of drained land; how well drained such land still is; and the actual emission levels, currently estimated at about 20 tonnes of C02 equivalent per hectare. This is now being measured.

However, some concern was raised in the committee at the extent of ongoing scientific analysis in the face of an urgent need to slash emissions.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said she felt the “urgency isn’t there” to deal with climate reduction targets in terms of what can be done immediately. While scientific data was required, Ms Whitmore said she worried that “perfection was the enemy of the good” and that some measures could be taken ahead of data.

Mr Ó Brolcháin agreed, saying many assumptions could be made based on research emanating from other countries. However, he said, the State owned about one quarter of the peatlands in the country and that Ireland, generally, is in the process of rewetting over 100,000 hectares, a level in advance of other European countries.

Under questions from Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan, Mr Ó Brolcháin said peatlands in good condition were not suitable for either solar or wind energy projects.

Read More: Pension funds buying Irish peatlands, Oireachtas committee hears – The Irish Times

2022-11-15 11:55:24

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