The amount of land planted for forestry in Ireland in 2021 was just a quarter of targets contained in the Government’s Climate Action Strategy, the CSO has confirmed.
According to figures in the CSO’s first statistical report on forestry, Afforestation Area 2021 the rate of tree planting shrank from 6,947 hectares in 2007 to just 2,016 hectares in 2021.
The state had previously set a target to increase the annual afforestation level to an annual 20,000 hectares to the year 2030.
But this was amended to just 8,000 hectares after significant licensing difficulties for planting and felling were encountered by the Department of Agriculture.
The CSO data show the 8,000 hectares target – which is included in the Government’s Climate Action Plan – is being missed by a significant margin.
Just last month the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the target of 8,000 hectares per year would be “challenging to meet in the next decade”.
He said the target was ambitious compared with recent afforestation rates.
Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council Marie Donnelly recently told the Oireachtas Environment and Climate Change Committee that the decline in tree planting placed Ireland in “a serious hole” as it posed an enormous obstacle to achieving the target of net zero carbon by 2050.
The CSO Afforestation Area 2021 report found while the percentage of broadleaf species – considered better for biodiversity than the more predominant Sitka spruce – amounted to 41 percent of the area afforested in 2021, the bad news was that farmers’ share of overall planting had declined every year since 2010.
The share of forest planting by farmers in 2021 was just 18 percent – down from 97 per cent in 2014, the CSO said.
Commenting on the report, Niamh Shanahan, statistician in the Environment and Climate Division of the CSO, said the report also showed the area planted in 2021 was 2,016 hectares (ha) which represented “29 per cent of the area planted in 2007”.
Alder and Ash were the main broadleaf species planted during 2007 to 2013 while Alder and Birch were the main species from 2015 to 2021.
Sitka spruce is still the dominant conifer species and comprised 86 per cent of coniferous species in 2021.
County Cork had the largest afforested area every year from 2007 to 2016, and from 2019 to 2021. Cork accounted for 17per cent of the total afforested area in 2021 followed by Roscommon (9.4per cent), Clare (8.6per cent), and Cavan (7.9per cent).