Irish biomass plans for peat power stations “pose serious threat to our forests” US environmental groups warn

13th August 2018
Press Release

US conservation and environmental justice organisations submitted an Open Letter to Irish Government demanding closure, not conversion of peat plants.

An Open Letter by 33 conservation and environmental justice organisations in the USA has today been sent to the Irish government, ESB and Bord na Móna, opposing large-scale biomass burning in Ireland’s three peat power stations as a serious threat to southern US forests.

The groups state that both peat and biomass burning are profoundly incompatible with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and that the Edenderry, West Offaly and Lough Ree plants must therefore be shut down as soon as possible.

The call supports demands by environmental NGOs in Ireland that the peat plants should not be permitted to operate beyond 2020 and that the Irish Government and energy companies must instead increase support for genuinely low-carbon renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.

Rita Frost from the conservation NGO Dogwood Alliance, based in North Carolina, states:. “ESB and Bord na Móna will do anything to keep their subsidies flowing for dirty, climate-polluting power stations. Their current proposal would replace peat with precious forests from the Southern US. The wood pellet industry in our region that would feed these companies is a key driver of forest destruction. Those forests lie at the heart of a global biodiversity hotspot and are vital for the future of the world’s climate, the region’s water supplies, and the local communities that depend on them.”

Bord na Móna has stated that it will burn US wood pellets ‘initially’. Its claims that it can eventually replace them with domestic willow and other biomass have been dismissed in the US Open Letter.

John Gibbons, climate change spokesperson from An Taisce says: “The Irish Government must listen to the warnings from US environmental groups. An Taisce has long called for the urgent phase out of high-carbon, dirty peat burning in Ireland. Burning either peat or imported wood pellets undermines Ireland’s climate change commitments while also destroying critical biodiversity It must be ended”.

“It is cynical in the extreme for Bord Na Móna to plan to extend the life of its ecologically devastating peat burning business by contributing to similar destruction abroad”, Gibbons added. “As a semi-state company, it is under direct political control, so there is absolutely no reason Bord Na Móna cannot be directed by government to focus only on commercial activities that do not destroy biodiversity, increase flooding risk and further undermine Ireland’s climate targets”.

Rachel Smolker from Biofuelwatch, based in Vermont, adds: “If we want to have any hope of stabilising climate change at 1.5 or even 2 degrees C, we need to end fossil fuel and peat burning and we also need to protect the world’s remaining forests and allow ones which have been degraded or destroyed to regenerate. ESB’s and Bord na Móna’s plans for the three power plants will harm the climate both through direct carbon emissions and by accelerating the loss and degradation of forests”.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Rita Frost, Dogwood Alliance, +1 828-251-2525 ext 26
Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, office: +1 802-482-2848, mobile: +1 802-735-7794
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Notes

The Open Letter can be downloaded at https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Open-letter-on-Ireland-Peat-Power-Stations-Aug-13-2018.pdf

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.