The inaugural meeting of the newly formed Interdepartmental and Industry Timber in Construction Steering Group took place yesterday, marking an important step towards increasing the use of forestry products in the construction sector. The group, appointed by Minister of State for land use and biodiversity Pippa Hackett, aims to promote the use of timber as a sustainable alternative to steel and concrete, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of buildings.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Hackett emphasized the environmental benefits of using timber in construction. She stated, “Timber used in construction is an excellent way of storing and locking up carbon, and has a positive impact on our climate. We know our forests bring great benefits for our climate, water quality, nature, and biodiversity – growing timber as a product for construction is also central to our climate efforts and to the future of the forest sector.”
The steering group consists of representatives from both industry and government departments, who will work together to assess the needs of the sector and identify ways to increase the use of timber in construction. One of their key tasks is to address potential obstacles, such as regulatory and standardization challenges, and to maximize the utilization of home-grown timber.
Chairperson of the group, Prof. J Owen Lewis, expressed his satisfaction with the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the members during the meeting. He stressed the urgency of increasing the use of timber in construction and expressed confidence in the group’s ability to bring about positive change.
Prof. Lewis was appointed to the position in early October, and Minister Hackett expressed her confidence in his ability to lead the steering group towards achieving its objectives.
In other forestry-related news, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued 42 licenses for afforestation so far this year. However, this represents only approximately 2% of the number of licenses required to meet the government’s afforestation targets, according to the Social, Economic, Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA).
The latest forestry licensing dashboard, up to the first week of November, reveals that the department has received 87 afforestation applications in 2023. Additionally, there have been 467 applications for forestry roads, with 179 licenses issued.
SEEFA has expressed concern over the significant drop in road licenses, suggesting that the forestry licensing system is still fundamentally flawed.