Ireland has got it seriously wrong when it comes to climate change. It has just published a report which was composed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change jointly with the department of Agriculture Forestry and Food. They want the European Union to recognise carbon dioxide absorbed by forests as part of the climate change emission reduction directive. If this happened Ireland (and other EU states) would not have to work so hard or spend so much to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because they would take into account the sequestrating effect of growing trees.
Now we should plant as many trees as we can; that would be a good policy. Trees stabilise soils, often preventing soil erosion, they provide, when not over managed, a habitat for species threatened with extinction and they provide a useful sustainable crop which is ideally suited for building materials.
They also happen to absorb carbon dioxide, but the absorption by trees varies from species to species, and with the growth rate, and with the age of trees, and with their cultivation and end use. If excessive carbon dioxide by nature was a problem, due to shortage of trees, then the solution recommended by the Irish would be excellent. However the problem is excessive carbon dioxide production caused by human activity, mainly industrial production and the production for energy for power and heat.
The most important policy should centre around the reduction of carbon dioxide creating activities, particularly in the field of energy where there are alternatives to creating energy by producing carbon dioxide as a by product.
There should also be a second policy, quite separate of carbon dioxide reduction targets, which specifically revolves around trees. Part of the global warming problem (which is also caused by human activity) is the destruction of large swathes of forest, mainly in the tropical zone, for farming, or simply for wood stealing. This is also changing our climate and a policy of preventing an area half the size of Ireland being deforested each year is what we should all concentrate on. We should also encourage all EU states to plant more trees, particularly in cities and wild unmanaged forests, where they can help keep our climate under control.
Tree planting has to be carefully undertake, using native species – after all there is an ecological reason why those species settled in those places.
Ireland reduced its carbon emissions by 15% last year, it is estimated. The reduction happened because of the deep recession which has affected Ireland and that reduction is likely to be sustained this year. But the Irish are a vigorous energetic people and will come out of recession and when they do they must have the right carbon dioxide policies for the planet, not just for Ireland.