Think Trees and Talk Trees in 2022
A National Conversation is needed on what we as a nation want from our forests
Today I told members of the Seanad that this year I would be asking the Irish people to ‘think about, and talk about’ trees.
I highlighted the role of trees in addressing the climate crisis
I said that while the year was beginning on a note of optimism, there was still a climate and biodiversity crisis to be addressed.
‘Trees matter. When it comes to climate, they sequester carbon, they store carbon, and apart altogether from providing us with beautiful surroundings, they provide a whole range of biodiversity, water and ecological benefits.’
With a new forestry programme to be agreed this year, I want, in advance of it, to make sure people had the opportunity to engage with all the issues and options, and also to give their opinion on how best we should address them.
“We have a much lower level of forestry cover than almost every other European country and our level of native woodland is particularly low. But as we attempt to up that level, we want to involve everyone in a conversation about what we, as a nation, want from our trees.’
The conversation has already begun with a Behaviour and Attitudes poll before Christmas. It found that as a nation we value trees, we love to walk in woodland, and that we want, and like, a mix of both conifer and native woodland.
“The poll also showed we are much less aware than certainly I would like, of the benefits of timber for construction, and we haven’t really noticed much talk about trees in the media, about their benefits.’
I really want to change that situation with this conversation, highlighting that it starts this evening with a meeting of young people, to be followed next month by a Deliberative Dialogue with 99 members of the public, followed by a subsequent online public engagement.
I mentioned my own love for my local woodlands at Emo Court and Charleville Castle, and closed my speech by referencing the recent words of the chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Marie Donnelly: “We are in a serious hole in terms of our afforestation rate in this country, and it is an immediate and urgent challenge to get the policies right, so as to reverse that.”
I hope that this national conversation will play a big part in doing just that.