Planting the upper lands of Ireland is not enough to combat Ireland’s carbon emissions when farmers on the lower lands are increasing production, according to Oisin Coughlan

The Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland spoke at the Coillte Climate Change and Irish Forestry Conference in Dublin recently.

Coughlan said that emissions from agriculture are a serious concern and there are not enough carbon sinks to combat the losses to the environment.

He also said that is is difficult to put in place an effective carbon sink and this is a problem right across the world.

There is also a significant amount of carbon lost from Ireland’s heath lands on an annual basis through the burning of turf, he said.

Carbon emissions from peat extraction account for 3.4m tonnes.

Coughlan said that the current model of forestry in Ireland is based too much on single variety planting of spruce and clear felling.

This had significant impacts. Historically 40% of Irish soils were grown on peat lands and disturbance to the soil increases carbon emissions, he said.

There are also biodiversity impacts caused by clear felling and spruce plantings.

From a biodiversity perspective, we have serious concerns about the model of forestry in Ireland.

“If the pressure comes on the government to increase forestry production we would have serious concerns to where it would bring us.

“We think the future needs to be somewhat different. We need to look at much greater species diversity.”

He also said that the industry should look at continuous cover forestry instead of clear felling as these systems can improve the delivery of biodiversity objectives.