“In the Climate Action Plan and the AgClimatise Report, the expansion of forests by 8,000 hectares per year is cited as one of the ambitions in sequestering or absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“But this target is currently unachievable because of the dysfunctional forestry licensing process, and poor overall management by the Department which puts off new entrants to the sector.
“At this week’s meeting of the Agriculture Committee, I raised the matter with Professor Gerry Boyle of Teagasc who said that in terms of carbon storage, we are fortunate right now to be benefitting from the high level of plantation that was undertaken 30 years ago.
“He said that we will continue to benefit from this up to 2030, but after that, we will be relying on the amount of plantation taking place right now; which is way below the national target and way below the levels that are needed to replenish the forest stocks in terms of carbon sequestration post-2030.
“This is another example of how the abandonment of the important forestry sector not only has impacts now but will have consequences in the future.
“Not alone have our foresters been let down by the manner in which the Department has been overseeing forestry, but our ambitions for climate action have also been made even more difficult.
“Reform of the Department’s forestry service must speed up and be purposeful, otherwise the sector will continue to suffer right now, and our climate ambitions will be put at a disadvantage in the future.”