Minister Hackett launches series of COFORD Statements on Forests and their role in climate change mitigation

Launch of COFORD Statement on Climate Change and Forests. Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography Copyright 2021

The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett, today launched a series of COFORD Statements which provide facts and science on the important role of forests and wood products in climate change mitigation.

Welcoming the publication, which was prepared by members of the COFORD Council’s Forest and Climate Change Working Group, the Minister said:

‘These COFORD Statements on forests are well articulated, as well as being timely, coinciding as they do with the publication of Climate Action Plan 2021 and the ongoing discussions at the Climate Conference in Glasgow, where I have been for the last few days.  We need to increase significantly, the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.  Forests and woodland have a significant role to play here. This starts with putting more trees in the ground and I am working with all stakeholders to ensure that we can up our afforestation rates and ensure that this nature-based climate action of planting trees can be achieved.

The series of statements draws on the collective expertise of a wide range of organisations who work on a number of COFORD Council Working Groups. These statements cover three broad areas consisting of forests and climate, the impacts on forests and the important role of wood products. The detailed information presented brings together a range of evidence-based facts which will inform public debate on forests and wood in the years ahead.   While many understand the role of forests in removing carbon from the atmosphere, raising awareness of the importance of using wood is timely. The recently published Climate Action Plan 2021 outlines the importance of the built environment and increasing the use of renewable materials in the buildings of the future. Wood is well placed to achieve this ambition.

Referring to the importance of wood, the Minister continued: ‘The series of recommendations outlined in these statements challenge all of us from industry to policy makers to be ambitious and to grasp the opportunity for change. I want us to rise to that challenge. There are clearly massive opportunities to significantly increase the quantity of timber used in houses and to consider building taller buildings using engineered wood products such as cross laminated timber. So I am calling on our architects and our builders to ‘think timber’.  We are planning major increases in house-building. I believe we need to make sure our timber industry plays a big part in it.  The recently published “Housing for All- A new Housing Plan for Ireland”, sets out the trajectory of house building required out to 2030. This increase in house building also corresponds to a doubling of harvest from our national forests over the same time period. These are opportunities that we need to grasp and explore further, and I look forward to speaking with my cabinet colleague Minister Darragh O Brien at the Department of Housing, Local Government about all the information contained in the COFORD statements, as they provide a basis for discussion and also complement measures outlined in the EU Green Deal and the new EU Forest Strategy.”

Dr Eugene Hendrick on behalf of the COFORD Council welcomed the series of Statements which is a new initiative of the Council and aims to connect science to policy. He acknowledged the hard work of the COFORD Forests and Climate Working Group, who have worked collaboratively to bring these statements to the Minister and make recommendations on policy. The COFORD Council’s role is to advise the Minister on key policy areas and these statements deliver on that mandate.

He said, “The COFORD Statements clearly outline the importance of increasing afforestation significantly above current levels and the importance of timber products in achieving decarbonisation of our economy.  The Council looks forward to working with the Department and the forest sector on the recommendations outlined in these statements, which if implemented will make a significant impact on Ireland meeting its international commitments on climate change.”