Possible forestry returns have the potential to enhance financial fitness on the farm, according to Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley.

Speaking in the Dail last week on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development he said that Ireland should take decisive steps in order to increase the amount of forest coverage.

“Returns from forestry are strongly competitive compared with many other farm enterprises. We have seen the fluctuation in beef and milk prices over the past two years.

Along with positive interactions with key farm schemes, potential forestry returns have the potential to enhance financial fitness on the farm, he said.

Tax-free status of forestry income

To support the continued development of forestry Fianna Fail proposes the retention of the tax-free status of forestry income and suggests that it be spread over a number of years, Dooley said.

“In addition to this, development of a biomass and bio-diesel market and accompanying supply chain should also play a key role in Ireland’s low-carbon development.

“Increasing our capacity for carbon sequestration and renewable energy generation will deliver positive results for Ireland.

“Of course, ensuring low-carbon development is about more than just sequestration. We must be proactive in finding new and more carbon efficient means of driving our economy and fuelling our growth.”

Dooley said that this will involve a considerable increase in Ireland’s capacity for renewable energy generation, an area for which there are also specific EU targets.

In 2015, 25.3% of our electricity came from renewable sources and 9.1% of our overall energy requirements were met using renewable sources, meaning that we are just over halfway towards attaining our 2020 targets.

The Clare TD said that Ireland has come a long way towards increasing our renewable energy capacity but we have much more to do in order to meet our 2020 targets.

“While progress has been made in some areas, such as agriculture, almost no progress has been made in other areas since 2011, notably home heating and transport. We really have issues there.

“Between 2014 and 2015, we have observed a decline in the amount of renewable energy being used for home heating. This clearly needs to be addressed.”

In the short term, the lowest cost way to cut emissions from home heating would be to continue the shift away from oil heating and towards natural gas, he said.

“We believe that the use of natural gas for home heating should be encouraged by supporting the roll out of the network.”

Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, to make a real effort to put a plan in place that gets Ireland in line with the targets that have been set, not just meeting the targets for the sake of eliminating the potential for fines, for doing what is right by the environment and ensuring we have an economy that works in tandem with our environment.