Natural Capital Partners Announces Largest Corporate Commitment to
New Native Forest Creation in Ireland in a Decade
Ireland’s targets for afforestation have received a substantial boost thanks to a new investment by Microsoft. Natural Capital Partners, a company specialising in working with businesses on meeting their environmental commitments, is working with Microsoft to put this investment towards achieving afforestation targets in Ireland. With Microsoft’s participation, the project will enable the planting of trees on 137 hectares of land over the next two years. Forestry specialists, Forest Carbon Ltd, and Irish-based forest managers Green Belt, are working with Natural Capital Partners to source sites, establish and maintain the forests for the project.
Ireland is Europe’s least forested country (along with The Netherlands) and the programme will make an important contribution to the country’s goals of new native woodland creation as laid out in the 2014-2020 Forestry Programme – a requirement which is currently not being met. In addition, the newly created forests will sequester approximately 35,600 tonnes of carbon over 40 years, equivalent to removing 7,500 passenger cars from the road for one year, and contributing to Ireland’s national GHG emission reduction targets.
“This programme demonstrates the increasing role of corporates in contributing to the commitments countries have made to greenhouse gas emission reductions. It is a powerful example of the continual evolution in business climate leadership and the types of intervention that will become increasingly critical to delivering long term positive impact on both emissions and the world’s natural capital,” says Stephen Killeen, CEO, Natural Capital Partners.
The programme, created by Natural Capital Partners, will provide financing to land owners committing to new native forest creation, supplementing the payments they can receive from the Irish Forestry Service. As the value of agricultural land continues to decrease, farmers are looking for opportunities to diversify their income, and the additional financial support makes the establishment of native woodlands a more viable revenue option. The programme will begin planting on sites in Cork, Kerry and Galway during April and May with the remainder taking place in 2018.
"We have been contracted to supply the native woodland sites for this project which is the first scheme of its kind in Ireland”, said John O'Reilly, CEO, Green Belt. "This could herald a new chapter for Irish forestry and a first step towards valuing and compensating land owners for the ecosystem services their forests provide," he maintained.
Native woodlands deliver key ecosystem services including flood control, water and soil protection, biodiversity conservation and habitat linkage, and climate change mitigation. The forests will be created using appropriate principles to ensure that they demonstrate additionality, make a permanent land use change to sustainably managed forest cover and, wherever possible, be designed to protect biodiversity and habitats and deliver water benefits. Forest Carbon, is overseeing this element of the partnership to ensure its long-term quality and sustainable impact. Native tree species will be planted in each site, such as Pedunculate Oak, Downy Birch, Common Alder, and Scots Pine.
Mr Andrew Doyle TD, Minister for State with responsibility for forestry at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine welcomed this initiative saying that “Microsoft have been in Ireland now for over 30 years and during that time have made a significant contribution to our local economy. The creation of a fund to encourage the planting of native woodlands will now contribute to our environment by protecting and enhancing water quality and enriching the biodiversity of the land planted. This new and innovative contribution to our planting programme is very welcome and I am pleased to see that the fund will operate seamlessly with my Department’s afforestation scheme.”
“In May 2012, Microsoft made a commitment to become carbon neutral. We also created a fund for investment into both internal and external carbon reduction activities. The Irish Forest Creation project is one of nearly 50 projects around the world that are supported by investments from the carbon fee funds. Through this forest creation programme in Ireland we will ensure that we contribute to the country’s environmental well-being and support of the economy. Ireland is a key location for Microsoft, with a growing team of up to 1,800 employees, from EMEA Operations Centre, European Development Centre, European Data Centre, Ireland Sales Subsidiary, and our recently announced EMEA Inside Sales Team all based here. Operating in a sustainable way is an important part of our vision of creating a Cloud for Global Good,” says Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland.
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