Investment in forestry over the next five years will have a big impact on the environment, as it will result in the planting of 600,000 ha in Europe, according to Dermot Ryan, Senior Advisor to European Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Speaking at the Coillte Climate Change and Irish Forestry Conference in Dublin, he said that forestry is a key sector to allow Europe to move towards a low-carbon and carbon-friendly environment.

Ryan said that the European Commission has been working to give forestry policy an unprecedented degree of centrality to climate change policy decisions.

He also discussed details of a multi-annual plan for forestry, which involves an investment of over €7 billion in public funds, as part of the Rural Development Envelope.

“Half of this spending will primarily aimed at ecosystem services. Around third on targets promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift towards a low-carbon and climate resilient economy.

“This is vital because three-fifths of European forests are privately owned and the sector employs over 3m people,” he said.

He also said that this investment, which will take place over a five-year period will provide both practical and environmental outcomes.

“More than 600,000ha of new forests are foreseen under the plan, contributing to the mitigation of climate change and promotion of biodiversity,” he said.

Ryan also said that this short-to-medium term support is being matched by significant investments in research.

He said that under Horizon 2020 there is €3.8 billion being invested in projects related to forestry, sustainable agriculture and the bio-economy.

“A further €9 billion is earmarked for research and development in energy efficiency and climate action, including many projects which relate specifically to climate smart forestry,” he said.