National review of land use called for in climate action report

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action has called for a national review of land use to optimise planning and help tackle carbon emissions.

The committee made the recommendation in its climate action report, which was published yesterday (Thursday, March 28).

The document was adopted by majority vote by the committee with all but Sinn Fein and Solidarity People before Profit committee members backing the publication.

Review

The review called for would include adaptation co-benefits such as rewetting or forest regrowth to mitigate flooding risks in river catchments, according to the committee, drawing on a similar report published by the UK Climate Change Committee for inspiration.

Irish hedgerows are highlighted for their contribution to carbon sequestration, storage and climate adaptation, as well as wildlife, water quality and flood management.

The committee calls for further work to maximise these biodiversity and climate through a county-based hedgerow survey strategy.

In addition, under CAP and national funding, a range of payment schemes should be made available for land uses with specific relevant benefits.

Such schemes would incorporate:
  • Active maintenance of ecosystems including re-wetting of agricultural wetlands;
  • measures to develop a sustainable biomass industry;
  • Riparian planting;
  • Agro-forestry;
  • Alternative crops such as hops, flax, hemp, soyabean meal and protein crops;
  • Extending uncultivated field margins around arable lands; and
  • Ensuring the eligibility of farmers for CAP payments on existing marginal/uncultivated/overgrown lands.

On the topic of forestry, the committee acknowledged that there are problems with Sitka spruce plantations, including impacts on biodiversity and water quality.

Forestry

The report cited the current study being conducted on the matter in Co. Leitrim, adding that the findings from this should “inform future forestry policy”.

The committee calls for stronger incentives for farmers and landowners to plant broadleaf species instead of conifers.

The National Forestry Programme 2021-2017 is called on to address a number of issues including the failute to meet national afforestation targets to date as well as: setting a target of 5% for farm-based native tree planting; a balance of community development with afforestation; and knowledge transfer programmes to allow landowners to engage in projects.

In addition, the Climate Action Council is called on to conduct a separate review of national forestry in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This review should look at approaches to forest management; introducing requirements to convert Sitka spruce plantations into more mixed stands; assessing wider co-benefits of forestry management approaches; economic aspects; recreational co-benefits; and community reactions.

Peatland

The committee calls for the rewetting of peatland and bogs, seeking the roll-out of bog rehabilitation on all designated bogs – Special Areas of Conservation for habitats and species (SACs), Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) – as set out in the National Peatland Strategy.

The Oireachtas report also recommends that the Climate Action Council in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, develop a verifiable pathway in line with the overall national targets to achieve net sequestration nationally by 2050.

This “pathway” should include the development of a set of scientifically informed targets for the rehabilitation and restoration of natural peatlands, cutover peatlands, afforested peatlands, farmed peatlands, and industrially cutaway peatlands by this time next year.

The Government should assign responsibility for a national programme of rewetting and restoration for inclusion in Budget 2020 based on the Climate Action Councils recommendation, according to the report.

This should be provided for in the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) along with adequate multi-annual funding and resources to deliver this target, the committee advises.

CLASSIFIED ADVERTS