The Climate Action Plan is a comprehensive Government response to the risks associated with climate change and outlines actions and strategies to reduce and manage those risks through a combination of mitigation and adaptation responses. Afforestation has a significant role to play in mitigation particularly, through carbon sequestration. Under current rules agreed as part of the EU Effort Sharing Regulation, forestry can contribute some 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 per annum of carbon towards Ireland’s emissions targets under the next climate mitigation period 2021-2030. Planting achieved under successive afforestation programmes will contribute to this emissions reductions figure. The Climate Action Plan now sets a target of an average of 8,000 hectares of new planting per year. In addition, the land use sector will provide a total of 0.58 million tonnes of CO2 per annum over the period 2021-2030.
While this will mostly yield benefits in the longer term post-2030, it will also contribute to our 2030 target through carbon sequestration. Achieving these levels of afforestation will be challenging, as recent trends have not delivered new planting at this rate. I am, however, committed to meeting this challenge through the continued provision of generous grants and premiums, engagement with a range of stakeholders from farmers to public bodies, a dedicated promotion and communication campaign, and by examining ways in which farm forestry can be better integrated into the new CAP. Knowledge transfer programmes and other initiatives which raise awareness of the economic and eco system benefits of forestry will continue to play an important role in tackling some of the barriers to planting.
An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030 by Teagasc demonstrates a range of mitigation options across the agricultural sector and shows that afforestation is a cost efficient land use abatement option. The cost of forestry measures included in the Climate Action Plan will be fully examined as part of the development of the next National Forestry Programme.