Thursday 23 January 2020

Editorial: 'Peat plan must be handled with care - success is vital'

'All the evidence suggests that we must give up on peat and instead rely on renewable energy sources such as wind.' Stock image: Getty Images
'All the evidence suggests that we must give up on peat and instead rely on renewable energy sources such as wind.' Stock image: Getty Images
Editorial

Editorial

For many people there is nothing that says Christmas more than the open fire.

Over the festive period many of our returning emigrants will have reflected on the moment they truly knew they were home: when they sat in front of a turf fire.

But the tradition is one that is dying - and that death will accelerate over the next decade as we move towards renewable energy.

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All the evidence suggests that we must give up on peat and instead rely on renewable energy sources such as wind.

The transition won't be easy for many people. While for some turf and briquettes are just fuel, for others they are a way of life.

For generations, families in the midlands have relied on the bogs to provide both heat and employment.

Bord na Móna and the ESB are part of the national fabric - but times are changing and we now know that practices must too.

The past year has seen young people across the world come together to highlight the dangers of climate change. What were once 'freak' weather events are now becoming more common.

And while in the past we could argue ignorance about our habits, there is now a broad awareness about how humans are to blame for putting the existence of our planet at risk.

So a balance has to be found between age-old traditions and a better future.

Today we reveal that the Government has asked the EU to grant it permission to amend the Public Service Obligation that we already pay with our electricity bill.

It is estimated that €80m brought in through the levy over the next four years could help people in the midlands adjust to a more environmentally friendly way of life.

The Government argues that our bogs, which for decades have been cultivated, could actually store massive amounts of carbon in the years ahead if they are rehabilitated.

Those who worked to harvest the peat could be redeployed to help restore the bogs.

It sounds like the ideal solution, which would no doubt be helped with a multi-million euro budget.

But money isn't always the answer. Pumping money into our housing system has not fixed it.

A record €17.4bn will be spent on health next year - but few expect the results to be much better.

What happens in the midlands over the next few years will stand as an example of how to deal or not deal with climate action.

If communities are to embrace the change, they must first be able to survive and then thrive.

The Government appointed its 'Mr Fix It' Kieran Mulvey as a Just Transition commissioner last month - but he still has no contract, no office, no secretariat, no agreed budget and no agreement on his pay.

He says more details would have been teased out if there had not been such urgency around his appointment.

Urgency and money are needed - but results are key.

Irish Independent

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