There should be no need to rewet farmland for Ireland to meet its peatland rewetting targets set out under the EU Nature Restoration Law (NRL), Irish Farmers Journal analysis shows.

Bog rehabilitation works already carried out by Bord na Móna have pushed Ireland past its estimated 2030 and 2040 peatland rewetting targets.

It has rehabilitated 17,400ha of former peat extraction sites and plans to increase this to 33,000ha over the next five years, a spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.

If these plans to rewet a further 16,000ha stay on track, Bord na Móna lands will also meet the country’s 2050 rewetting target some 25 years before the target’s deadline.

Ireland’s peatland restoration target is expected to come to 60,000ha under the law and 20,000ha of this land must be rewet.

Meeting the rewetting targets solely on State lands is possible as rewet peat extraction sites count towards a member state’s targets.

The law’s higher target for the restoration of peatlands should also be met on State lands alone, as Coillte plans to restore 30,000ha of forestry on peatlands by 2050, having restored 3,200ha already.

Further lands owned and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service should boost this area above the 60,000ha target.

A key development on rewetting targets has been the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptance of Teagasc figures showing the area of drained, farmed peatlands to only equate to around 120,000ha.

Moving targets

This area had been assumed to be as high as 330,000ha when the law was proposed.

The law itself has also seen its targets significantly reduced in the European Parliament.

Based off the initial targets laid out in the Commission, Ireland was in line to have to have to rewet some 115,000ha of farmland.

The law is still hanging in the balance as it remains uncertain if it will receive its seal of approval from the EU Council which is due to meet again on the matter next month.