Alliance spokesperson on the environment, John Blair MLA, has welcomed a statement from the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to increase forest cover significantly over the next decade.
John Blair said: “I welcome the commitment from Minister Poots to the new afforestation programme, Forests for our Future, which will see 18 million trees planted by 2030. We are in a climate emergency and this programme will go a little way to starting to reverse the damage we have done to our environment. Northern Ireland only has 8% forest cover, so we are far behind the rest of the UK and Europe.
“While details about the new Forests for our Future programme have still to be announced, I would suggest that it needs to be habitat proofed, to maximise opportunities for new woodlands and native broadleaf species while encouraging natural biodiversity. Increasing forest cover makes an invaluable contribution to removing carbon from the atmosphere, but it will also be important to protect wetlands that act as carbon sinks and are a vital part of our environment.
“I also welcome the commitment to work with all Executive colleagues and other public bodies, such as councils, to identify suitable planting sites. Land acquisition is much more expensive than purchasing trees, so it makes sense to plant on land that is already in public ownership. Additionally, the knowledge and input of voluntary and community groups can help to create local buy-in and add to the success of new planting programmes.”