Press Release: Ireland named & shamed at international awards ceremony for subsidising peat burning

Immediate Release

Ireland was among nine countries named and shamed at the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Awards ceremony in Brussels today for the Government’s commitment to subsidise peat burning for electricity generation.

Ireland was crowned number one for giving Sneaky Special Treatment to peat-burning at today’s medal ceremony, hosted by Climate Action Network – a coalition of European environmental NGOs.

Our Government was called out for making Irish consumers pay surcharges on their electricity bill to compensate for the Electricity Supply Board’s (ESB) generation of electricity from peat, one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.

The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations – believes that this embarrassing achievement is evidence of the pressing need to remove all subsidies for fossil fuels.

Peat-firing is subsidised to the tune of €120 million a year, yet is a highly inefficient system for energy generation, providing just 9% of Ireland’s electricity while producing 27% of emissions from electricity generation.

In their healthy state, peatlands will not only store carbon, but also continue to absorb CO2 as they expand. Near intact peatlands may actively sequester, on average, 57,402 tonnes of carbon per year. However, peat extraction has left Irish peatlands as a major source for carbon emissions.

The Pillar is calling on the government to now follow through on a commitment in the draft National Mitigation Plan to prepare options for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies. Financial subsidies should instead be used to invest in clean, renewable energy.

We support the recommendation from the Climate Change Advisory Council for the termination of peat firing of power stations as a vital step in shifting policy towards decarbonisation and away from fossil fuel dependence.

The Pillar also believes that we must respond to the social and economic needs of individuals and communities affected by the phasing out of fossil fuels.

Shifting subsidies into other policies and sectors is essential to move toward a sustainable approach to energy poverty and provide retraining and alternative jobs to replace those that must be phased out.

This is clearly seen in the recent announcement by Bord na Mona to shut down a briquette plant in Littleton, Co Tipperary, leaving almost seventy staff without a job.

In general, substantial challenges in peatland management and conservation have still not been adequately addressed in this country, causing biodiversity loss and legal action from the EU courts of Justice, as well as substantial emissions.

Charles Stanley-Smith, Spokesman for the Environmental Pillar, said:

“It is long past time to end the burning of peat for fuel. We have been collectively subsidising the burning of peat since a Public Service Obligation was imposed on all electricity consumers in 2001.

“Hundreds of millions of electricity customer’s money has been converted to greenhouse gases by subsidising the use of the most polluting fossil fuel of all. It is time to instead use our money wisely.

“By providing subsidies – tax payers’ money – to fossil fuels, governments end up taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes to climate action.

“We also need to recognise this is a sunset industry and arrange for a just transition to sustainable employment in the Midlands.

“There is extensive work to be done rewetting and restoring our raised bogs, so that they can lock up and store carbon, provide habitat for wildlife and enable eco-tourism, which will give local people a much better long-term income.”

Tony Lowes, Director of Friends of the Irish Environment said:

“Ireland’s award for “Sneaky Special Treatment” for our subsidies to the most polluting of the fossil fuels is a cause for embarrassment. Both the Irish government and the European Commission are responsible for the disgraceful levy on the electricity bill of every consumer which keeps uneconomic peat-burning power plants operating.

“It is ridiculous that we have a Taoiseach claiming he wants Ireland to be a leader in climate change when we subsidise the most polluting power plants in Europe but refuse to subsidise solar power.

“We must end peat extraction for energy and horticulture and rewet our bogs to retain the remaining peat and start to restore the valuable ecosystem functions our peatlands provide.”

Wendel Trio, European Director of Climate Action Network said:

“These awards reveal that financial commitments are not consistent with Government promises to tackle climate change in line with the Paris Agreement.

“With the awards we expose a large amount of largely hidden subsidies for fossil fuels and call on all European Governments to phase them out urgently and no later than 2020.

“We also ask them to make their budgets 100% climate-friendly and implement the clean energy transition as soon as possible. They must put their people and environment ahead of polluting fossil fuels.”


Media Contact

Niall Sargent
Communications Manager
Environmental Pillar

Notes for Editor:

About the Fossil Fuel Subsidy Awards:
Video from the Awards:

Photos from the Awards:

The awards bring attention to the many ways that European governments are using taxpayers’ money to fuel climate change by burning fossil fuels, and aims to heighten awareness of these subsidies in order to increase the pressure to phase them out.

Poland cruised to gold in the Deadly Funding category for misusing EU funds to burn coal, while Norway topped the Dirty Tax Gift leader board for using taxpayers’ money to support arctic oil exploration.

About the Environmental Pillar:

The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 26 national environmental organisations. It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website.

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:

An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, Cloughjordan Ecovillage, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Good Energies Alliance, Green Foundation Ireland, Green Economy Foundation, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.

About Climate Action Network:
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s largest coalition working on climate and energy issues. With over 130 member organisations in more than 30 European countries – representing over 44 million citizens – CAN Europe works to prevent dangerous climate change and promote sustainable climate and energy policy in Europe.