Between 13,000ha and 40,000ha of forestry is needed per year between 2025 and 2050 to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from agriculture, according to research co-funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, this would not take methane emissions into account.
According to the EPA, the policy of carbon neutrality “is in doubt” without action in the short- to medium-term to increase afforestation rates.
These views were expressed in a recent submission the EPA made in response to a government call for expert evidence ahead of the development of the Climate Action Plan 2024.
While the forestry sector constitutes an important source of CO2 removal from the atmosphere, the environmental authority said that there has been “a noticeable reduction in the absolute value of this sink removal activity, due to the current age profile of our national forestry stock”.
The reduction in the removal value has been driven by two factors, according to the EPA.
These factors are a “significant reduction” in the areas afforested compared to that in the 1990s and early 2000s; and secondly, significant afforestation occurring on peat soils from which “there can be large emissions of greenhouse gases [GHGs] to the atmosphere”.
The EPA said that recent research has indicated that these emissions are higher than originally estimated.
The agency’s submission document said that the current afforestation rates of about 2,000ha are “well below” the planned 8,000ha foreseen annually in the 2023 Climate Action Plan.
This, combined with increased timber harvest, will lead to further reductions in the ability of Irish forestry to contribute to CO2 emission removals going forward, according to the EPA.
The submission document said that it is projected that, by 2025, the forestry sector in Ireland will be a source of GHG emissions to the atmosphere.
The EPA said: “The extent of forestry that is required to be consistent with Ireland meeting its national climate objective needs to be determined to allow an appropriate afforestation target to be set in the next Climate Action Plan.
“This is likely to exceed the current planned 8,000ha/annum.”The EPA said that recent research co-funded by itself and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine “indicated that between 13,000ha and 40,000ha per annum of afforestation would be needed from 2025 and 2050 to offset projected CO2 and N2O emissions, but not methane emissions, from the agriculture sector”.
Afforestation rates at the lower end of those estimates take into account other actions, including a 75% reduction in agricultural emissions and a “substantial rewetting programme” of agricultural organic soils.
Read the full article at: https://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/epa-between-13000ha-and-40000ha-of-forestry-per-year-needed/
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