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24 May 2022

100,000 hectares of forest to be planted in effort to focus on climate action

100,000 hectares of forest to be planted in effort to focus on climate action

The new approach aims to sustainably balance and deliver the multiple benefits from Ireland’s state forests across four strategic pillars: climate, wood, nature, and people

Coillte, the semi-state forestry company, today announced a new forestry strategic vision which aims to deliver multiple benefits from its forests and bring more focus to climate action, setting ambitious new targets on biodiversity and recreation, while continuing to deliver for the forest and wood products industry. 

The new approach aims to sustainably balance and deliver the multiple benefits from Ireland’s state forests across four strategic pillars: climate, wood, nature, and people.

Coillte intends to consult widely with key stakeholders on its new strategic vision.

Among the actions that Coillte proposes to deliver as part of this new forestry strategic vision are:

For Climate:

  • Enable the creation of 100,000 hectares of new forests by 2050, supporting the delivery of the national afforestation target; and create a carbon sink of 18 million tonnes of CO2
  • Manage its existing forest estate to capture an additional 10 million tonnes of CO2 in its forests, soils and wood products by 2050
  • Redesign 30,000 hectares of peatland forests by 2050 through a programme of rewetting or rewilding for climate and ecological benefits
  • Produce sustainable wood products that in 2050 displace 2.7m tonnes of CO2 per year from fossil-based products such as concrete, steel and plastic 
  • Enable the generation of an additional one gigawatt of renewable wind energy by 2030, enough to power half a million homes in Ireland, via its joint venture company FuturEnergy Ireland.

For Wood:

  • Produce a sustainable supply of 25 million m3 of Irish certified timber that can help Ireland achieve its housing ambition of 300,000 new homes by 2030
  • Promote the use and benefits of wood products to help increase the level of timber homes from 20% to 80% by 2050
    Develop innovative wood products to meet the growing demand for sustainable materials to support the bioeconomy.

For Nature:

  • Enhance and restore the existing biodiversity on the estate (90,000 hectares; 20%) to improve its ecological value
  • Increase the area of its forest estate to be managed primarily for nature from 20% to 30% (an additional 44,000 hectares) by 2025
  • Transform and redesign an additional 70,000 hectares of existing forests, to create new semi-natural woodlands, providing valuable habitats, targeting that 50% of Coillte’s estate is managed primarily for nature in the long-term.

For People:

  • Support the creation of 1,200 direct and indirect new jobs in rural communities to enable the just transition to a low carbon economy in Ireland
  • Enable the investment of €100 million to create world class visitor destinations by 2030 to support the growth in tourism and recreation in Ireland
  • Double the number of recreation areas to 500 nationally, enhancing local communities and contributing to people’s wellbeing.

Coillte is responsible for the management of 440,000 hectares of Ireland’s forests, which represents 7% of the country.

Since its establishment in 1989, it has enabled the development of a vibrant forestry and wood products sector that supports rural employment throughout Ireland. 

While sustainability has always been central to the way in which Coillte manages the forest estate, Coillte believes that the growing climate and biodiversity crises, as well as societal demands for housing, jobs and wellbeing, are driving a need for greater change. 

A Red C survey conducted for Coillte in 2021, shows that the company’s view on the need for change is supported by public opinion, with 84% of respondents believing that Coillte has a role to play in meeting Ireland’s climate action commitments; 82% saying biodiversity is important for Ireland’s future; 82% believing forestry is an important sector in the Irish economy; and 86% agreeing that wood producing forests are important.

Over the coming weeks Coillte will engage extensively with key stakeholders and the public, to seek their views on its forestry strategic vision, to ensure it is aligned with the needs of Irish society. This consultation process will further inform the development of Coillte’s detailed strategic plans over the coming months.

Bernie Gray, Chairperson, Coillte, said:

“This marks an important day for Coillte. Over the last few years, we have been exploring ways in which Coillte can play an increasing role in Ireland’s climate action and biodiversity agenda, while recognising that financial sustainability is integral to Coillte achieving its purpose, so that the multiple benefits from our forests and land for the people of Ireland can be delivered.”

“I’m delighted that Coillte’s new strategic vision emphasises climate action, biodiversity and aims to increase development of wonderful recreation spaces for people to enjoy while continuing to deliver sustainable wood products to support building new homes.”

Imelda Hurley, Chief Executive, Coillte, said:

“In the face of the climate emergency, there is an urgent need for Ireland to meet stretching climate action targets and we recognise the critical role which Coillte can play in the achievement of these targets.

“We are delighted to communicate our new forestry strategic vision for Coillte, one which is rooted in science and is focused on optimising the multiple benefits from forestry across the entire estate.

“We have developed a comprehensive strategic vision that, among other things, would see us growing new forests, managing our existing forests for greater carbon capture, delivering valuable wood products, enhancing biodiversity, and creating more incredible recreational spaces for the enjoyment of our citizens and tourists. 

“Having outlined our ambition, we will now commence a series of consultations with key stakeholders and the public on our new forestry strategic vision, ensuring that our ambitions for both the existing Coillte estate and new forests under management are aligned with the needs of society.”

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