Irish forestry has been left in the dark for far too long

Louise Hickey

Last month, Minister of State for land use, Pippa Hackett launched a vision for Ireland’s trees, woods and forests until 2050.

The new plan outlines promising guidelines for “the right trees in the right places for the right reasons with the right management”. 

This comes at a time when Ireland, along with countries all around the world are trying to reduce emissions. The plan can be applauded and is greatly needed, but it has come far too late in terms of climate action.

The government has an annual forestation target of 8,000ha per annum. This figure has been deemed not ambitious enough in the crisis we’re currently facing. That’s worrying, because looking at recent years this figure had not been met. 

Figures for tree planting in Ireland are available up to 2020. In 2016 6,500ha were planted, 2017 accounted for 5,536ha. These figures drop even more, with 4,052ha afforestation in 2018, 3,550ha in 2019, and 2,000-3,000ha in 2020. 

There have also been complaints of delays in issuing forestry licences. Perhaps these goal figures could have been met over the years if the authorities co-operated.

In the early 2000s, grants were offered from Coillte Ireland to planters in order to grow coniferous trees. ‘Ireland Forest Statistics 2022’ shows that conifers make up 69% of forestry in Ireland. 

These trees don’t help to mitigate climate change as much as broad leaves. Conifer trees, like pine, are darker and absorb more heat, actually contributing to climate change.

This shows the lack of planning around grants for forestry. New grants for broadleaf trees need to be distributed. This will provide an initiative to plant. 

Launching forestry plans always look towards a brighter future, but no plan has brought that yet. It is time that Irish forestry is looked at seriously and we use the plentiful land at hand to positively impact environmental issues. 

All I can say is that I hope this plan is different. Ms Hackett’s plan states “By 2050, Ireland’s forests and woodlands will be seen as a symbol of the transformational social, economics and environmental changes that were needed to address the climate, biodiversity, housing and health emergencies of the 2020s”.

There are much more educated Irish people to hold officials accountable for alleged plans this time. It is up to all of us to reach climate targets. 

Louise Hickey

Image credit: Getty Images