The climate and biodiversity crises will undoubtedly “radically reshape how we utilise land resources” in the coming years, a report from the first phase of the Government’s land use review has said.
This will include additional renewable energy infrastructure, increasing forest cover, peatland rewetting, rewilding landscapes and farming with nature, it said.
It will also include nature-based solutions in urban and rural areas for flood risk management, developing ecological networks, biodiversity restoration and new urban green spaces to mitigate rising temperatures or local flood risk.
Land-use policies for climate action may be undermined by social barriers or opposition, the report, Socio-Economic Dimensions of Land Use, said.
This will be the case “if communities or landowners perceive they are experiencing only costs with limited benefits from land-use decisions, suggesting the importance of just transitions, effective social learning and political leadership”.
Sectoral policy often overlooks the interrelationships between sectors, particularly in relation to natural capital degradation, it added.
“This suggests the need to move beyond extracting profit from land towards a land-use strategy that focuses on wider wellbeing, national and community wealth-building and is aligned with ecological limits.
“This may require sectors such as agriculture to transition to a less intensive model - any shift in approach should be underpinned by a just transition to ensure political and public support, while supporting those affected to explore alternative models,” it stated.
Land use review
The report was one of a number published by Government on Friday under phase one of the land use review.
It provides an evidence base to determine the environmental, ecological and economic characteristics of land types across Ireland.
This preliminary review gathered evidence about stakeholders, existing policy and environmental, social and economic characteristics of land use to date.
It will inform phase two of the land use review, which will build on the evidence gathered.
The first phase of the review calculates that 78% of Ireland’s land is privately owned and 8% is publicly owned. Limitations on the data meant that 14% of land could not be assigned to either category with enough certainty.
A regional analysis of land cover shows that there are strong differences in the distribution of many land cover categories.
For example, cropland and infrastructure land (such as urban areas and other artificial surfaces) are more dominant in the east and southeast of the country, while land cover categories most associated with high biodiversity value occur predominantly in the border, west and mid-west regions.