An amendment to establish targets for forestry in the Climate Action Bill was ruled out at the committee stage of the bill’s passage through the Dáil.

The amendment was put forward by Labour Party agriculture spokesperson Seán Sherlock at the Committee of Environment and Climate Action, where the bill is currently being scrutinised.

However, according to Sherlock, the amendment was “ruled out of order” today (Wednesday, June 9), as it was deemed that it would place a charge on the exchequer.

Sherlock had argued that forestry targets “are a key part of delivering a successful bill”.

“I put forward this amendment on the basis that we wished to support the government’s attempts to ensure that there is a meaningful piece of legislation in relation to climate action and low carbon development but it was ruled out of order,” Sherlock said.

He argued: “I don’t see how setting an annual target for afforestation and bog remediation, which I would consider to be relevant to the whole issue of climate action, could be injurious to a bill of this nature.”

The Labour spokesperson noted that the bill as a whole will “in terms of what it seeks to do, impose a charge on the state in how we combat climate change”.

According to Sherlock, the planting of trees in Ireland has “spiraled into decline in recent years”.

“Under the government’s reasoning any amendment to the climate bill will impose a cost on the state, and with the decoupling of afforestation targets from the bill, we find that to be extremely incompatible with the spirit of the legislation,” the Cork East TD argued.

He noted: “If afforestation targets over the past five years had been built on a statutory footing and [were compulsory), an extra 15,365ha or 35 million trees would have been planted. These trees would have removed 5.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over their lifetime.

“If we are serious about taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing it as oxygen through tree-planting then binding afforestation targets must be stitched into this legislation,” Sherlock concluded.