The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D today announced a proposed investment by the Government of €1.3 billion in Irish forestry. The funding will be for the next national Forestry Programme and represents the largest ever investment by an Irish Government in tree-planting. The programme will now be the subject of state-aid approval by the European Commission.
The Taoiseach said:
“This commitment by the Government to such a substantial financial package reflects the seriousness with which we view the climate change and biodiversity challenges, which affect all of society. Forestry is at the heart of delivering on our sustainability goals and strong support is needed to encourage engagement from all our stakeholders in reaching our objectives. “
Minister Hackett said:
‘I’m delighted to have secured a package of €1.318 billion for forestry. This will support the biggest and best-funded Forestry Programme ever in Ireland. It comes at an appropriate time, given the urgency of taking climate mitigation measures. Planting trees is one of the most effective methods of tackling climate change as well as contributing to improved biodiversity and water quality. One of my main aims is to re-engage farmers in afforestation. I’m delighted therefore to be proposing a new 20-year premium term exclusively for farmers, as well as introducing a new small-scale native woodland scheme which will allow farmers to plant up to 1 hectare of native woodland on farmland and along watercourses outside of the forestry licensing process.”
“Minister McConalogue said:
“Today we commit to providing unprecedented incentives to encourage the planting of trees that can provide a valuable addition to farm income and help to meet national climate and biodiversity objectives. This funding guarantees continued payments to those forest owners who planted under the current scheme and who are still in receipt of premiums. It also offers new and improved financial supports to those who undertake planting and sustainable forest management under the new Programme. We intend to increase premiums for planting trees by between 46% and 66% and to extend the premium period from 15 to 20 years for farmers.
“We are approaching a new and exciting period for forestry in Ireland. The new Forestry Programme will drive a new and brighter future for forestry, for farmers and for our climate.”
The proposed new Forestry Programme is currently out to public consultation as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment process. The Programme is the main implementation mechanism for the new Forest Strategy (2023 -2030) which reflects the ambitions contained in the recently published Shared National Vision for Trees, Woods and Forests in Ireland until 2050. The public consultation closes on 29th November, 2022 and any changes which result from this process will be incorporated into the Programme and the Forest Strategy.
Minister Hackett commented: “The draft Forestry Programme and Forest Strategy are the product of extensive stakeholder consultation and feedback, and both documents are open to public consultation for the next number of weeks. I would strongly encourage all interested parties to engage with the consultation in advance of the Strategy and Programme being finalised.”
The new Programme is built around the principle of right trees in the right places for the right reasons with the right management. It aims to deliver more diverse forest which will meet multiple societal objectives, economic, social and environmental. Higher grant rates for forest establishment are also proposed with increases of approximately 20% to reflect rising living costs. The new one hectare native tree area scheme will also make it easier for landowners who wish to plant small areas of trees on their farm.
The Taoiseach concluded “I welcome this milestone and I believe that this funding injection will be an important catalyst in delivering on the ambition outlined in the new Forest Strategy. Our environmental challenges are huge but so is our commitment to overcoming them and this Forestry Programme is key to delivering so many of our priorities.
The new Programme will be 100% Exchequer funded and is subject to State Aid approval from the EU Commission. The Department is in contact with the Commission in relation to this approval which is a rigorous process.