Ireland’s managed forests emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) than they store − a bizarre perversion of what forests normally do: absorb CO2. This startling revelation is found in Ireland’s National Forest Accounting Plan, required as part of the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation. The Report concludes that Ireland’s managed forest estate transitioned from a sink to a carbon source over the period 2012 - 17 and will continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions out to 2025.
This is a result of, among other things, harvesting and draining water from carbon-rich peatlands, in order to convert them to forests. Local NGOs see an urgent need to stop planting trees in the wrong places – such as in peat bogs.
Despite what the Irish Government contends, this type of management is ill-suited to Irish ambition toward meeting climate goals, underscoring the need to move from plantation forestry and clear-felling to continuous-cover forestry and agroforestry schemes that enhance biodiversity and sequester carbon.
Ireland is just one example of the expected decline in CO2 stored across Europe’s forests. Taken together, carbon in EU forests is expected to drop 18.7 per cent compared to the early 2000s. This jeopardises the integrity of EU and national climate targets and is not in line with goals to maintain or enhance biodiversity in forests across Europe.