Timber producers call for more tree planting to boost construction sector

Timber producers are calling for an overhaul of licenses to help boost the use of local building materials, as global prices soar due to war in Ukraine.

orest Industries Ireland, the Ibec group representing Irish growers, said increased tree planting could help increase housing stock in Ireland while helping farmers offset carbon emissions.

The group is calling for the “removal” of tree planting licenses and changes to the Building Energy Rating (BER) system to boost wood production and make it more attractive to the construction industry. Forest Industries Ireland director Mark McAuley told a webinar last week that Ireland lags behind other countries when it comes to the use of wood in housing.

“With wood, you have a building material that stores carbon rather than emits it,” he said.

“The carbon is trapped in the fabric of the building. It’s a virtuous circle. »

Irish timber prices rose 64.4% year-on-year in February, ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is one of the world’s leading timber producers after China, the United States and Canada.

The Construction Industry Federation has warned that ‘hyperinflation’ in construction materials such as steel and timber could lead contractors to withdraw from public projects such as the 165 billion national development plan euros or housing for all, which aims to build 300,000 homes by 2030. .

The Department of Agriculture aims to more than double afforestation licenses this year, from just over 500 last year to 1,040.

John FitzGerald, a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council, told the webinar – hosted by Ibec and the Royal Institute of Architects – that a “significant increase” in tree planting over the next 30 years could help eliminate up to 100 million tons. carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

At current carbon prices, this could be worth more than €25 billion to the Irish economy, he said.

“The economic value of this investment, and its favorable environmental impact, would be greatly enhanced if we transitioned to using timber frame construction methods,” he said.

“Investment in forestry is one of the ways in which we can both improve the lot of the people of Ireland and produce a significant reduction in Ireland’s net greenhouse gas emissions.”

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