Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
255. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has carried out an analysis of the impact which current low afforestation rates in 2020 will have on Ireland meeting its climate targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44420/20]
256. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that afforestation rates for 2020 are only at 2,000 ha; the impact this will have on climate targets for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44421/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 255 and 256 together.
Forestry provides verifiable removal and storage of CO2 from the atmosphere, and will help in meeting our EU commitments over the period 2021 to 2030. The Climate Action Plan 2019 identifies how Ireland will achieve its 2030 targets for carbon emissions, and puts us on a trajectory which would be consistent with net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Under the Climate Action Plan, an afforestation target for the decade has been established of 8,000 hectares a year. While contributions from afforestation increase as trees age, the current afforestation rates will need to significantly increase if we are to achieve what is set out in the Climate Action Plan.
The Programme for Government outlines a range of commitments that are aimed at increasing afforestation rates in a manner that is equitable, sustainable and that promotes climate action and environmental protection. As part of this suite of forestry actions, the Government will take a range of measures including:
- Publishing a successor forestry programme to deliver an ambitious afforestation plan reviewing grant and premium rates across all categories in this area, with a particular focus on an increased farmer rate of support.
- Incorporating afforestation into the new Common Agricultural Policy to provide incentives for farmers to plant woodland on their farms, acting as a carbon store, helping to promote wildlife corridors, and providing a future fuel source for the household.
- Embarking on an ambitious programme of afforestation on state-owned lands, building on the Coillte/Bord na Móna initiatives.
- Promoting close to nature-continuous cover forestry systems to ultimately create permanent bio-diverse forests containing trees of all ages.
- Providing increased support for the development of agroforestry/silvopasture on Irish farmlands.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and his Department are working urgently to accelerate the pace at which licences are issued through a robust system that meets all of the legal and environmental requirements.