Lack of forest planting may scupper our hopes of hitting climate change targets
Low levels of forestry planting across the country pose a major risk to Ireland's chance of hitting climate change targets.
Teagasc director Gerry Boyle warned if the low planting levels continue, we will not be able to reap the benefits of potential carbon sequestration.
It is expected that 5,400 hectares will have been planted this year, which falls far short of the targets of more than 7,100. A major national campaign is in the pipeline between Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture to try to increase the level of planting nationwide.
It also comes at a time when the country's dairy sector is expanding rapidly, with the milk pool expected to hit expansion targets set out under the Food Harvest 2020 blueprint two years ahead of target.
Prof Boyle said forestry is probably the single most important option to reduce agriculture's carbon emissions, and it is something that should concern all aspects of agriculture.
He pointed out Ireland is likely to face obligations in the agri-food sector to reduce emissions by 30pc from 2005 to 2030. "It is a real challenge as we won't meet the intermediary target for 2020," he said.
He pointed out it is estimated that sequestration from our forests has the potential to contribute about two megatonnes by way of carbon saving. He said it was a "substantial benefit in terms of the very stringent requirements".
Alan Matthews, emeritus professor with Trinity College, warned a "lot more" needs to be done to try to reduce the net emissions from agriculture. "It is the only sector where you can offset some emissions through the carbon sinks," he said, adding Ireland has negotiated a "very favourable level for offsets".