Forestry can lead climate change battle
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.’