Ireland has contributed five million native trees to the European Union's 3 Billion Trees initiative, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett announced on Wednesday 20 March.

This initial pledge for Ireland is based on the number of native trees planted under the Department’s afforestation schemes since 20 May 2020.

This EU tree initiative aims to roughly double the forest expansion rate in the EU achieved over the period 2005-2020 with three billion additional trees planted by 2030.

It includes the expansion of existing forests, and also focuses on new planting on agricultural land and the use of agro-forestry. It also supports urban greening through additional planting in urban and peri-urban areas.

'Important tool'

Minister Hackett said from Brussels on Wednesday that the EU’s 3 Billion trees pledge is an important tool for countries to help support climate, sustainability and biodiversity goals across the EU.

"Between now and 2030, under our ambitious new Forestry Programme and through Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, and indeed under their successor programmes, I am confident we will contribute millions more native trees towards the three billion goal," she said.

Minister Hackett also noted the importance of planting a range of tree species and the importance of appropriately sited and sustainably managed conifers for producing timber.

The European Green Deal sets out commitments and targets, reinforced in the EU’s Biodiversity and Forest Strategies, for protecting and restoring nature. One of these commitments is the pledge to plant at least three billion additional trees in the EU by 2030.

Ireland’s new Forestry Programme 2023-2027 offers a wide range of schemes to support the establishment and management of tree-planting by private landowners and public bodies.

Broadleaf target

The annual broadleaf target for this programme has increased from 30% to 50% of total annual planting. This is reflected in a substantial increase of 66% in premium rates for the establishment of native forest, with €1,103 per hectare available to plant native forests and €1,142 per hectare for native forest with water over a period of 15 or 20 years.

Minister Hackett also advised: “The Forestry Programme 2023-2027 is the most ambitious to date, and supports landowners to plant trees in a manner that provides lasting climate, biodiversity and wider societal benefits.”