In Ireland, one in seven households still use peat to heat their home. As part of its climate plans, the Irish government has partially restricted peat harvesting. But it’s not without a fight. Rural areas are resisting now that energy prices are so high.
More than half of all households in Ireland use solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood to heat their homes, according to research published by State guardian of the environment in April.
Cattle farmer Mickey O’Donnell made his living cutting peat. With current energy prices, he still uses peat to heat his home, cook and shower. His supply of peat will last him all winter and summer. It cost him only 200 euros: “Very, very cheap. If you do it yourself, it’s a lot cheaper.”
Marc Ó Cathasaigh is a member of parliament for the Green Party. His party is the driving force behind the ban on the commercial sale of peat. Because peatlands are a key weapon in the fight against climate change: “Not only do peatlands capture carbon, but they also store it for a long period of time. So something like forestry will capture carbon very efficiently for the first fifty years. And after that, it becomes a kind of steady state.
The amount of carbon within that system remains constant. Wetlands are different. It will take carbon from the air and store it in the form of peat or turf, and it will stay there, tied up for thousands of years if left.”
The government’s climate message is increasingly resonating in Ireland, especially among the younger generation. But the current energy crisis could be the key thing.
“This spike in energy prices has definitely made this discussion more difficult,” says Ó Cathasaigh. “I think the war in Europe has shown us without any doubt that not only do we have to move in terms of energy transition from a climate point of view, but there is also the issue of energy security.”
Younger voters are also calling for an energy transition to renewable energy sources such as wind. The Green Party is also in favor of such a change, according to Ó Cathasaigh.