Prof Cathal O’Donoghue’s recent study – The Economics of Afforestation and Management in Ireland: Future Prospects and Plans – has been a wake-up call for forestry and agriculture in Ireland.

The report maintains that annual afforestation needs to increase to 18,000ha to achieve net zero by 2050. It makes the claim that if recent Government afforestation targets had been met, “then it would have been possible to sequester over time all the emissions from the increase in animal numbers over this period, in effect allowing for carbon-neutral dairy expansion”.

It goes on: “The further this target is missed, the greater will be the need to deliver reductions from other sources, including agriculture.”


The enormity of the challenge is acknowledged by all the stakeholders featured in the Focus feature, who will be charged with the task of delivering a viable forestry programme. They believe that existing Department structures will result in business as usual as they were never designed to respond to the challenges and opportunities as outlined.

As reported by Michael Guilfoyle and Donal Magner, it is now clear that a new and innovative approach that actually incentivises farmers and other landowners to afforest part of their land while addressing barriers to afforestation and harvesting is required.

We have been down this road before but the O’Donoghue report is a stark reminder of what needs to be achieved.