Green Goals Gone Astray: Ireland’s Ag and Land Use Fall Short of Climate Targets, warns FII

"Forestry Industries Ireland Admits Failure to Meet Climate Change Targets for Agricultural and Land Use Sector"

Forestry Industries Ireland (FII) has expressed concerns that the agricultural and land use sector will not meet climate change targets, as planting for the year stands at 2,000 hectares instead of the goal of 8,000 hectares. In a briefing held in the European Parliament by MEP Colm Markey, FII met with leading EU Commission officials and MEPs to discuss the challenges faced by the Irish forestry sector. FII informed officials that Ireland’s aim to reach a million hectares of forestry from the current 800,000 hectares is now in doubt, as levels have stalled due to increased regulation. The FII stated that Ireland’s current rate of planting is far from the target of 8,000 hectares per annum.

During their visit to Brussels, FII also held meetings with DG Clima and the cabinet of Commissioner Mairead McGuinness. European officials have agreed to visit Ireland in the new year to gain a better understanding of how the Irish forest sector operates on the ground. Mark McAuley, director of FII, highlighted the issue of farmer confidence and the rejection of potential planting sites under the new land type restrictions. He emphasized the need for a focus on planting conifers where landowners can see a real commercial return on their investment.

The most recent forestry licensing dashboard for the week ending December 1 revealed that 67 licenses were issued, with only six of them for afforestation. Out of the total, 28 licenses were issued for Coillte felling, eight for road licenses, and 25 for private felling. The Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland (SEEFA) expressed concern about these numbers, stating that if this rate continues for 52 weeks with an average site size of 7 hectares and a 65% conversion, the subsequent afforestation program would only result in 1,400 hectares planted annually.

In November 2023, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) issued a total of 22 afforestation licenses, bringing the total number of licenses issued this year to 65. SEEFA also highlighted that no licensing plan for 2024 has been announced yet and criticized the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine for not publishing the plan, claiming that it would reveal the department’s inability to issue the necessary licenses for the industry to function.

It is evident that the forestry sector in Ireland is facing significant challenges in meeting climate change targets. The low rate of planting and the rejection of potential sites due to increased regulation have hindered progress towards the goal of reaching a million hectares of forestry. Farmer confidence is a crucial factor, and the industry must ensure that landowners can see a viable return on their investments. The visit of European officials in the new year signifies a willingness to understand the Irish forest sector better, and it is hoped that this will lead to constructive dialogue and potential solutions. However, the lack of a licensing plan for 2024 raises concerns about the department’s ability to support the industry effectively. The forestry sector plays a vital role in addressing climate change and achieving sustainability goals, and it is essential that all stakeholders work together to overcome the current challenges and ensure a thriving future for Irish forestry.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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