Bord na Móna not ‘climate change deniers’ over impact of peat

Semi-State firm last month said over 400 jobs to go as it seeks to reduce carbon footprint

 

Bord na Móna would not be “climate change deniers” when it comes to acknowledging the impact peat farming has on the environment, the company’s chief executive has said.

The semi-State company last month announced that up to 430 jobs could be lost as it shifts its focus towards renewable energy and reducing its carbon footprint. It said it would be ending peat harvesting at 17 of its 62 active bogs immediately, with all peat harvesting to end by 2028, two years earlier than planned.

Tom Donnellan, chief executive at Bord na Móna, said the decision to get out of the peat harvesting business was the “right thing to do”.

Those involved in Bord na Móna were not “climate change deniers” and the firm was “not trying to push back the tide” in relation to climate change, he told the Oireachtas committee on climate change on Tuesday.

The decision to decarbonise the business had led to the “extremely difficult choices” taken in recent weeks over job losses, Mr Donnellan said.

The company was hopeful that in the coming years up to 500 jobs linked to sustainable energy might be created in in the Midlands region.

Recycling

However, Mr Donnellan said there was no set timeline for when those positions might be delivered but that the company hoped to create between 100 and 200 jobs in areas such as recycling in the next two years.

The transition of the company away from peat harvesting had been on the cards for “over a decade,” said John O’Reilly, a senior Bord na Móna official. The alternative to the restructuring plan was “to shut down and turn off the lights,” Mr O’Reilly said.

The committee also heard from Mark Foley, chief executive of Eirgrid, who said there was “enormous potential” for offshore wind farms around Ireland, which could easily generate five times as much energy as their onshore counterparts.

“The time has come for Ireland to embrace offshore wind at scale,” Mr Foley said. “However, our understanding is that the consenting regime for offshore wind farms is not fit for purpose and is therefore operating as a barrier to developers.”

Eirgrid was best placed to secure planning consent for an offshore network, which private wind farm operators could connect into, he said.

The first phase of this network would ideally be placed on the east coast, Mr Foley added.