Afforestation targets are key to climate action bill

Seán Sherlock TD
09 June 2021
  • Amendment to set afforestation targets ruled out of order

Speaking at the Committee Stage of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021, Labour Party Agricultural spokesperson Seán Sherlock TD said that afforestation targets are a key part to delivering a successful bill.

Unfortunately, an amendment on afforestation targets from Deputy Sherlock was ruled out of order by the Chair of the Committee as it was deemed it would place a charge on the Exchequer.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“I put forward this amendment on the basis that we wished to support the government’s attempts to ensure that there is a meaningful piece of legislation in relation to climate action and low carbon development but it was ruled out of order.

“I don’t see how setting an annual target for afforestation and bog remediation, which I would consider to be relevant to the whole issue of climate action, could be injurious to a Bill of this nature.

“Forestry will play a key role in climate change mitigation, but the Minister did not seem open to taking on board good faith proposals from the opposition. The Bill by its very nature, in terms of what it seeks to do, will seek to impose a charge on the State in how we combat climate change.

“The commitment to plant 8,000 hectares of new woodlands annually and to increase our forestry cover (currently below 11%) were widely welcomed and seen at the time as ambitious, but are now considered as modest by industry stakeholders, as 6,500 hectares were planted as recently as 2016.

“Sadly, instead of increasing on the 6,500 hectares, the actual planting of trees in this country has spiralled into decline in recent years with only 2,400 hectares planted in 2020, and less expected in 2021. It s a clear reason why we need targets committed to in law.

“Under the government’s reasoning any amendment to the climate bill will impose a cost on the state, and with the decoupling of afforestation targets from the bill, we in the Labour Party find that to be extremely incompatible with the spirit of the legislation.

“If afforestation targets over the past 5 years had been built on a statutory footing and had to be achieved, an extra 15,365 hectares or 35 million trees would have been planted. These trees would have removed 5.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over their lifetime. If we are to take mitigation seriously, then targets of no value must now be a thing of the past, we cannot keep repeating this level of failure.

“Afforestation targets built on a statutory footing would ensure obstacles preventing delivery of these commitments would be identified and dealt with as priority, instead of just repeating the same failed methods each year as is currently the case.”

“If we are serious about taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing it as oxygen through tree planting then binding afforestation targets must be stitched into this legislation.”

Editors notes:

The test of the amendment ruled out of order was:

In page 12, to substitute the following for line 36:


(1B)Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) –

(a)a sectoral adaptation plan made by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine shall include annual targets to be achieved in afforestation,

(b)a joint sectoral adaptation plan made by the Minister and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Energy shall include annual targets to be achieved in the remediation of bogs that have been cleared in whole or in part of turf.”. – Seán Sherlock, Duncan Smith.

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