BORD NA Móna will not open any more peatlands and expects to be out of peat within 25 years, its new managing director has confirmed.
Gabriel D'Arcy, who took over in February, said the opening of new bogs to fuel peat-powered generating stations is no longer justifiable because bogs act as carbon sinks and the burning of peat contributes to CO2 emissions.
The semi-State company has sufficient peat resources to last until 2025 at the current rate of usage and biomass targets could stretch that deadline by several years.
At the 13th International Peat Congress in Tullamore, Co Offaly, Mr D'Arcy said yesterday that Bord na Móna wanted to set an example internationally in relation to the issues of sustainable energy and waste conversion.
Almost 600 delegates from all over the world are attending the week-long event which is held every four years. It was opened by Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday morning.
Currently Bord na Móna burns about three million tonnes of peat a year. It has set itself a target of using 30 per cent biomass by 2020.
It also has planning permission for a 350-megawatt wind turbine station in northwest Mayo, which will be the biggest in Ireland.
It owns 80,000 hectacres of peatland, of which about half are in production and the rest has been either redeveloped or in reserve.
Mr D'Arcy said the awareness of the ecological value of peatland was another contributing factor to the decision not to open up any new bog and Bord na Móna had embarked on a major programme to restore used bogland as a natural habitat, including Lough Boora parklands in Co Offaly.
"We are going to focus on the environment and our corporate social responsibility. We have a lot of unique technologies and we own our own power station [Edenderry] so we have the technology to generate our own power," he said. "We will lead by example in getting out of the problems we have with energy and waste."
Bord na Móna corporate spokesman Pat Fitzgerald said suggestions that the EU was stopping everybody from cutting turf was based on misinformation. He said the habitat directive only related to certain designated bogs and had been in existence for more than 10 years.
The issue has been raised by some No campaigners in the Lisbon Treaty debate.
The internationally renowned botanist and broadcaster Prof David Bellamy told the conference that the science of climate change was an "international scam".
Prof Bellamy, one of the most high-profile and unlikely climate change sceptics, said the International Panel on Climate Change had not bothered to publicise the fact that the world's average temperature had hardly risen in the last decade although 250 billion tonnes of CO2 had been expelled into the atmosphere in the same period.
He has long maintained that climate change is a result of natural weather cycles and has nothing to do with human activity.
Prof Bellamy has been a strong climate change sceptic since first dismissing evidence of man-made global warming as "poppycock" in 2004. He was been frequently criticised for his standpoint and has been called a "flat-earther" by one of Britain's chief climate scientists, John Lawton.
Prof Bellamy accused the climate change lobby of cherry-picking statistics. He described the "hockey stick model" which shows a dramatic rise in temperatures in the northern hemisphere as "completely discredited".
He also said climate change lobbyists had ignored the fact that the Sahara desert is retreating, not expanding, and that both Australia and Scotland had their coldest winter in decades.
He said evidence of climate change was contained in bogs which trap pollen and showed there were periods of warmer and cooler weather throughout history.
The Irish Times