Forestry is the “weak link” when it comes to the Government’s performance on climate, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC).
CCAC chair Marie Donnelly warned that urgent action is needed to ramp up planting activity and create the carbon sinks for Ireland that forestry can provide.
“This is a real weak link that we have in the Irish context. We have a national [planting] target of 8,000ha a year for planting forests and, so far, we’re planting about 2,000ha a year. This is a sink that we absolutely need for our emissions and it’s behind,” she said.
Speaking in response to a climate performance report commissioned by the Friends of the Earth group, Donnelly pointed out how delays in the Government’s forestry plan have left farmers and foresters now playing planting catch up.
“You’re probably aware that the [Government] brought out additional funding for forestry last year, but we only received state aid approval for that at the end of July.
“We are in arrears in being able to implement that funding, to support both farmers and foresters in terms of the planting season, to achieve that kind of target,” she said.
The scientist went on to highlight that there is no quick fix when it comes to improved planting levels and said that the afforestation delays seen now will have an impact for years to come.
“The issue about forestry is, of course, that trees absorb [carbon], but they have to grow in order to do that. This is a policy that you invest in now, but you have to wait 10, 15, 20 years to get the benefit.
“So, that’s why it’s so urgent that we move on forestry as fast as possible,” she explained.
Donnelly also pointed out that Government has yet to set an emissions reduction target for the land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF), like it has done for all other sectors.
Similarly, she said there is as of yet no policy in place to support farmers to diversify into biomethane generation.
“We still haven’t the policy on that. It’s due this month. Farmers and other investors are waiting to move on that industry which, again, is very successful in other parts of Europe.
“We still don’t have pen on paper or indeed action in that context in order to move it forward,” she said.