Forestry can lead cli­mate change bat­tle

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

WICKLOW’S forests are ab­sorb­ing mil­lions of tonnes of CO2 and are help­ing lead the way in the fight against cli­mate change.

Mark McAu­ley, Di­rec­tor of For­est In­dus­tries Ire­land, said that there is over 36,260 hectares of forestry in Wicklow or 17.9 per cent of the county.

‘As they grow, th­ese trees ab­sorb an ex­tra 169,200 tonnes of CO2 each year from the at­mos­phere which equates to the amount of CO2 emit­ted by over 30,700 homes. Put an­other way, that’s the equiv­a­lent of tak­ing over 78,300 cars off the roads. The trees in Wicklow are ab­sorb­ing that much CO2,’ said Mr McAu­ley.

Forests are a nat­u­ral car­bon capture and stor­age sys­tem that will ben­e­fit the whole world for gen­er­a­tions to come. They are the most scal­able of cli­mate change solutions and one of the eas­i­est ways for the county to deal with its harm­ful emis­sions.

Mr McAu­ley said: ‘If we look at the tim­ber prod­ucts com­ing out of the for­est es­tate in Wicklow, you are talk­ing about 3.8 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of tim­ber will be har­vested in Wicklow in the next ten years – that’s 3.8 mil­lion tonnes of harm­ful CO2 locked away. At least half of the mass of tim­ber will be se­questered in long-life tim­ber prod­ucts that go to build­ing our homes.

‘Man­aged forests are par­tic­u­larly good at ab­sorb­ing CO2 as they grow fast and when they are felled the CO2 is stored in long-life tim­ber prod­ucts. Then the trees are planted again and you get a sec­ond load of CO2 be­ing taken out of the at­mos­phere. Ef­fec­tively, you get a ratchet ef­fect’ where the to­tal CO2 se­ques­tra­tion keeps ratch­et­ing up be­tween the trees in the for­est and the wood prod­ucts in use.’

An im­por­tant part of the cal­cu­la­tion are the more car­bon in­ten­sive build­ing prod­ucts such as steel and con­crete that are dis­placed by our us­ing tim­ber to build. In ad­di­tion, the por­tion of the tim­ber that is used for bioen­ergy is dis­plac­ing fos­sil fu­els. It means that oil is be­ing left in the ground and the world’s car­bon foot­print is smaller be­cause of this.

The forestry in­dus­try is an im­por­tant one for the Gar­den County. The tim­ber mo­bil­i­sa­tion value or the money that will be earned by forestry own­ers, tim­ber hauliers, forestry work­ers and con­trac­tors in Wicklow be­tween 2017-2035 will be €457 mil­lion. 250 Wicklow farm­ers re­ceived a to­tal of €1,407,239 in for­est pre­mium pay­ments in 2017. The to­tal num­ber of em­ployed peo­ple in the forestry sec­tor in Wicklow stands at an es­ti­mated 760.

Mr McAu­ley said: ‘We have the best con­di­tions in the world for grow­ing trees and a world class for­est in­dus­try that the coun­try can be proud of. The sitka spruce tree grows fast and is what we need to pro­duce con­struc­tion tim­ber. Houses all over the coun­try are built with our sitka spruce. If we did not pro­duce tim­ber, we would have to im­port it.’

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