Sitka spruce 'most important crop' for climate action, claims IBEC

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Sitka spruce is the most important crop in Ireland bar none from a climate change perspective, IBEC has claimed.

Mark McAuley, director of IBEC's Forest Industries Ireland group, told the Farming Independent that planting forestry is the real solution to hitting our climate targets.

"If climate change is the biggest global challenge impacting our society, then Sitka spruce has to be the most important crop in Ireland bar none. Forests can manage up to 20pc of the climate change solution across Europe. It's a real world solution to a real world problem," he said.

"When it comes to hard figures, we produce about 1.9 million tonnes of timber products each year which equals 1.6 metric tonnes of CO2 contained in our timber products. That volume of CO2 equates to the amount of CO2 produced by 525,000 cars which is almost the amount of cars licensed in Dublin."

He pointed out that the 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 that is locked away in long-life timber products every year accounts for all the household energy emissions from counties Cork, Kerry and Waterford.

Mr McAuley added that Ireland's planting rates of approximately 4,000ha a year are not good enough and that they need to be doubled if Ireland wants to reach its forestry planting targets of 18pc by 2046.

"We are way off, we need to push the Government on planting as at the moment they are making assumptions that our targets will be hit."

He said that encouraging farmers to plant forestry will be a major task as an awful lot of farmers would not consider dedicating a section of their land to trees

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"We hope to win farmers over. Farmers should embrace forestry as something that goes hand in hand with farming. There is a lot of scaremongering out there when it comes to forestry and Sitka spruce.

"I get annoyed when people say managed forests aren't any good for climate change - that's rubbish. The argument against forestry is always full of smoke and mirrors. We need to get back to basics here as planting trees is always positive especially for storing carbon.

"Farmers need to assess would it make more economic sense for them to plant trees on marginal areas of their land."

* Forestry Industries Ireland will host a Forestry: Real Solutions to Ireland's Climate Emergency conference in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin on July 8 at 10am.

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