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Written Answers. - Afforestation Programme.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 88. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the extent to which forestry policy here is dedicated to combating global warming as envisaged in the Kyoto discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3907/02]

 89. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the number of trees of a species most likely to combat global warming which were planted here in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3908/02]

 90. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if he has directed Irish forestry policy specifically towards achieving targets set at Kyoto; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3909/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 to 90, inclusive, together.

The national climate change strategy identifies the key role to be played by forestry in terms of meeting Ireland's commitments under the Kyoto protocol. The NCCS calls for the intensification of the afforestation programme in view of the ongoing importance of enhancing sinks capacity towards reducing overall greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and assisting in meeting longer term greenhouse gas reduction.

A close working relationship exists between my Department and the Department of the Environment and Local Government in the context of forestry's role in the national climate change strategy. My Department is represented in the cross departmental climate change team and has also established an internal climate change team in order to facilitate early implementation of key measures identified in the strategy under the remit of the Department.

[1594]The Government's forestry policy as set out in Growing for the Future – A Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland was prepared prior to the Kyoto protocol. One of the targets of the forestry policy is to increase Ireland's forest cover from its present level of 9% to 17% by 2030. The planting programme to give effect to this strategy is supported by a generous grants and premium package co-financed by the European Union. This significant increase in forestry will assist in countering the increase in greenhouse gases. In fact, forestry is one of the few economic activities that can contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Conifers are particularly well suited in this regard. These species play a significant role as a carbon sequestrator. It is estimated that on average one hectare of Sitka spruce absorbs 3.3 tonnes of carbon per year. Over its rotation one hectare of conifers will remove approximately 100 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, making them exceptionally efficient in combating the greenhouse gas effect. COFORD, the Council for Forest Research and Development, is carrying out extensive work in the area of carbon sequestration with a view to maximising the sequestration potential of Irish forests. COFORD has negotiated an research and development contract that will refine current estimates of carbon stocks in Irish forests. The results of this research will inform future forest service policy.

While final afforestation figures for 2001 are not yet available, it is estimated that 15,000 hectares approximately were grant aided that year. The total area of afforestation grant aided in 2000 was 15,695 hectares. With regard to the suitability of particular species, soil and site determine the rate of forest growth and consequently the potential for carbon storage. The five most suitable species are grand fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir. Of these Sitka spruce accounted for approximately 50% of total annual afforestation for the year 2000, other diverse conifers such as Douglas fir account for approximately 30% and broadleaves account for the remaining 20%.

 91. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the ten most commonly planted trees here by species in the past five years in the private forestry sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3912/02]

 92. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  the ten most commonly planted trees by species here in the past five years in the public forestry sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3913/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 92 together.

The ten most popular species grant aided by the forest service over the last five years are Sitka spruce, Norway spruce, Japanese larch, lodgepole [1595] pine, Scots pine, Douglas fir, common alder, oak, ash and sycamore. There is no distinction between the species grant-aided by Coillte and others.


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