Forestry has the potential to deliver 300 million tonnes of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration by the middle of this century, according to a representative group for the sector.

Forest Industries Ireland (FII), said the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) annual review for 2021 shows a clear need for a scalable model in Ireland that results in large amounts of new woodland and forests.

“That is the biggest weapon we have in terms of land use,” Mark McAuley, director of the Ibec group that represents forestry, said.

He said if the crisis-hit sector gets moving again “it will be a massive dig out for our agri sector”.


The CCAC said Ireland is significantly off-track in terms of pathways leading to a long-term transition to climate neutrality.

It said that progress is particularly urgent in the land use, land use change and forestry sector.

The CCAC said land use has the potential to become a net carbon sink, if a comprehensive programme is devised to address the low rates of afforestation, along with peatland rewetting and restoration.

If designed and implemented appropriately, it said, such a programme could also be used to support rural development and improve farmers’ incomes.


The 770,000ha of Irish forests contain 312 million tonnes of CO2, according to FII.

The group said Irish forests absorb an additional 5 million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is enough to cover the emissions from 80% of the cars on Irish roads.

The FII said that every m³ of timber product stores around 1t of CO2.

“Successive reports have identified afforestation as the key action to combat agri-emissions and yet we continue to miss our tree planting targets which call for 8,000ha/annum and we are achieving 2,500ha,” McAuley said.

“The massive problems with providing licences for new forests continue and that is completely undermining progress.

“It clearly says in the CCAC report that afforestation is a win-win action and so it demands urgent and sustained attention.

“If we get this wrong, down the road we will be kicking ourselves. It is such a no-brainer to abate our agri-emissions by incentivising our farmers to move more land into forestry and woodlands.”

McAuley said a package of measures that will really appeal to farmers and “reward them for making the right decision”, is urgently needed.

“We are superbly well-placed in Ireland to move more into forestry. Trees grow faster here than elsewhere in Europe, so we have a competitive advantage in producing timber for sale both at home and abroad,” he added.

“Our forests can become a major component of the growing Irish bioeconomy for the 21st century,” McAuley concluded.