In October 2015 Bord na Móna took a significant step in outlining its vision for a sustainable and profitable business for 2030. This vision is built upon changing perspectives and a continually changing landscape in terms of priorities and targets. A sustainable business is built by recognising equally the three pillars of sustainability - people, planet and profit.
From its initial development over 80 years ago, Bord na Móna has been a major driver of social and economic development in the midlands of Ireland and indeed the west of Ireland. The move to sustainable business now means that Bord na Móna is determined to further build on its longstanding support for communities. At the local community level it will be the untethered vision of communities living on the edges of the bog that will ignite the inspiration and creativity for the local attractions – spaces like the Lough Boora Discovery Park in County Offaly and other community led wetland projects. These projects and initiatives require sustained energy and commitment from Bord na Móna working closely at the same time with the communities involved.
A sense of what is already happening in terms of biodiversity is reflected in the numbers of species – 940 in total – recorded at the Lough Boora Bioblitz event in 2012. As well as that the huge popularity of the Lough Boora Discovery Park – where annual visitor numbers are now approximately 100,000 – reflects the widespread Appreciation of that biodiversity and the space that the cutaway bogs provide. In terms of the ecosystem goods and services provided by just this one area, we are only beginning to understand how to value this rich natural capital and judge how we can continue to do so in areas where the returns support the necessary investment. Bord na Móna can set the standard in terms of how nature and economy can sustain each other, keeping local communities vibrant, but also keeping the species and habitats upon which we rely at sustainable population levels. Initiatives like the Natural Capital Coalition, the EU Business and Biodiversity platform, and Business in the Community play a role in leading businesses to value biodiversity and ensuring it is part of their annual accounting systems. Inclusive decision making, innovation in sustainable commercial activity and constantly endeavouring to increase our positive ecological footprint will be key to any sustainable business.
With all the knowledge and experience built up since the 1990s, the company is now a major driver in terms of peatland rehabilitation and restoration, and in valuing natural capital. As the company switches progressively to renewable energy, the need for the intensive and industrial production of peat will steadily decline. This will result in a significant land use change in Ireland, in both local and national terms. As soon as peat production stops in an area, natural processes coupled with targeted rehabilitation and informed management, work to transform the former bare peat to a rich tapestry of habitats. These areas can progress relatively quickly towards valuable assets for Ireland with multiple potential uses – habitats for species marginalised in the Irish landscape today, carbon stores and sinks to help reduce and offset national carbon emissions, space for renewable energy projects and niche commercial opportunities, rich cultural landscapes for artists and observers to be inspired and to create, and a platform for amenity and tourism facilities for people to enjoy these new landscapes. The Green Infrastructure will provide a lifeline for many critically endangered and vulnerable habitats and species, and provide mutual benefits for the people using these wonderfully biodiverse areas.
Each of these aspects of rehabilitation and management of the Bord na Móna bogs – ensuring environmental stabilisation of former peat production areas, creating self-sustaining habitats for viable species populations, connecting habitat and species networks, enhancing biodiversity, understanding the GHG implications for different habitats – will be addressed over the course of this biodiversity action plan.
The Biodiversity Action Plan 2010–2015 was a pioneering plan that delivered a number of key actions for Bord na Móna and biodiversity. The plan has been a key driver in determining the use of Bord na Móna’s lands, and has succeeded in promoting and enhancing biodiversity while also creating awareness of the importance of this core value.
The Biodiversity Action Plan 2016–2021 builds on these significant achievements, and in the context of Bord na Móna’s Sustainability 2030 report, expands on our overall vision for biodiversity and related areas including natural capital, eco-tourism and greenhouse gas management. Part of this future will involve the integration of these activities with commercial and community use of the land within an overall strategic framework. This overall approach reflects the importance of the three pillars of sustainability – people, planet and profit – and Bord na Móna’s role as stewards of the assets entrusted to it by the State.
Bord na Móna is fully committed to a sustainable approach to land use and will continue to work, with all its stakeholders, to deliver its strategic aims in accordance with this Plan.