The Climate Action Plan acknowledges that how we manage our land affects how much carbon is emitted to, or removed from, the atmosphere and that switching from one use to another can fundamentally change an area’s capacity to store carbon. The Plan, therefore, includes a range of actions aimed at reducing emissions from agricultural land use, promoting increased rates of afforestation and improving the management of Ireland’s peatlands. Peatlands cover 21% of our land area. A high proportion of this is under agricultural and other uses, with 16% designated for nature conservation purposes. Peatlands represent 64% of our total soil organic carbon stock, representing the largest store of carbon in the Irish landscape. The Climate Action Plan commits to better management of Ireland's carbon sinks with a range of measures such as:
- restoring / rewetting all raised bogs designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Natural Heritage Areas within three cycles of the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022 . Such restoration measures and hydrological management of our protected peatlands will halt and reduce peat oxidation and carbon loss;
- undertaking further research to assess the potential to sequester, store and reduce emissions of carbon through the management, restoration and rehabilitation of peatlands as outlined in the National Peatlands Strategy ;
- realising the emissions reduction potential of at least 40,000 hectares of grasslands on drained organic soils, yielding up to an additional 0.44 Mt in sequestered carbon dioxide annually between 2021 and 2030. Priority actions include identifying precisely which areas of carbon-rich and drained organic agricultural soils are suitable for water-table-management techniques to reduce carbon losses. This work will inform the development of agri-environment policies, including the new CAP, recognising regionally differentiated strategies may be appropriate; and
- creating additional incentives to adopt carbon-positive, post-production management options on Bord na Móna lands, and similar options on other commercial and private peat extraction sites.