Ireland cuts 6.7 acres of trees for every acre planted, Labour conference told

Party debates climate change and need for ambitious afforestation programme

Ireland cuts down almost seven acres of trees for every acre planted, and there is no evidence of a proper co-ordinated afforestation programme, the Labour Party conference has heard.

Party's agriculture spokesman Sean Sherlock said the Government needs to set clear annual targets for forestry.

Speaking to about 100 delegates on the second day of the conference on the theme of A New deal for Climate, Mr Sherlock said the next round of Cap (Common Agriculture Policy) needs to focus on forestry, as part of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Sherlock said there was an opportunity for "new alliances to deal with climate change but he was not convinced that Sinn Féin was on the same page on the issue, particularly in relation to carbon tax. He said that the Green Party spoke in broad terms but that Labour did the detail.


However delegate John Feeney from Leitrim, speaking about the urgent need for radical action to tackle the climate emergency, said "there are times when we need to support the Green Party in their trials and tribulations".

Calling on party colleagues to back the Greens who were “getting blamed” for everything, he said “support the Greens when they need it and they will need it”.

Ivana Bacik, the party's climate action spokeswoman, said the party would introduce a carbon labelling Bill requiring companies to specify the emissions impact of manufacturing on their products.

She also said Labour would introduce a Dublin Bay Bill to create a statutory body with responsibility for the area’s amenities.

“We are supporting Government measures in terms of setting ambitious targets,” Ms Bacik said but added the party was holding Government to account on its lack of specific annual and sectoral targets.

Ciaran Ahern, the party's Dublin South West candidate in the 2020 general election, said a new deal for climate would involve "radical and rapid changes to our lifestyle". He said the changes required include 500,000 fewer car journeys a day.

“That means people take the bus, bike, walk to work to GAA practice . . . a small effort like that can make a real difference quickly.”

Delegates were also told a just transition to a climate neutral society had to go “hand in hand” with economic justice. One delegate said that “environmentalism without workers’ rights is just gardening”.

The conference backed a call by Labour trade unionists that meaningful climate action should include a focus on “decent jobs and just transition” in the event of workplace closures, particularly in carbon-intensive sectors.

That would be “predicated around decent pay, decent work and a living wage” and the right to collective bargaining.

The party also heard calls for a greater focus on rail as most families in rural homes have multiple cars outside the door because of lack of public transport.

One delegate pointed out that 100 years ago most towns and villages had a train station and although there is now “an allergy to rail”, there is a need to focus on proper rail infrastructure.

The party will later debate healthcare, childcare and education along with enterprise and social protection before leader Alan Kelly’s address to the party late this afternoon.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times