Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ceisteanna (299)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

299. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures proposed to protect blanket bogs under the land use, land-use change and forestry. [49423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

Under the EU Land Use and Forestry Regulation for 2021-2030, EU Member States have to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change or forestry (LULUCF) are offset by at least an equivalent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere during this period. The Regulation implements the agreement between EU leaders in October 2014 that all sectors should contribute to the EU's 2030 emission reduction target, including the land use sector. It is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which points to the critical role of the land use sector in reaching our long-term climate mitigation objectives.

The primary legislation underpinning the protection and conservation of nature in Ireland are the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the implementation of which falls under the remit of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity. The basic designation for wildlife is the Natural Heritage Area (NHA), an area considered important for the habitats present or which holds species of plants and animals whose habitat needs protection.

73 blanket bogs, covering 37,000ha, are designated as NHAs.

The legislative framework in place to protect our natural habitats is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, which also falls under the remit of my Department. These Regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law, and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union, giving a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each Member State. The main instruments provided for are the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA), aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds, and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

Ireland has identified 50 areas as Special Areas of Conservation for the protection of blanket bog. These SACs include lowland and mountain blanket bog areas, predominantly along the western Atlantic seaboard but also widely distributed on upland areas.

The LULUCF Regulation aims to include managed wetlands, such as blanket bogs, in our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) accounting by 2026. To this end, a working group, including representatives from my Department, has been established by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to formulate how accounting for managed wetlands can be achieved in the context of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in compliance with the relevant EU legislation.

Greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities associated with afforestation and forestry harvesting, grassland and cropland management under agricultural use, managed and unmanaged wetlands, and other land-use categories. While such emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets.