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We will plant millions of trees to tackle climate change, says Edwin Poots

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New scheme: Edwin Poots

New scheme: Edwin Poots

New scheme: Edwin Poots

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has pledged to help tackle climate change by planting 18 million trees over the next decade - 10 for every person in Northern Ireland.

The scheme Forests For Our Future was announced by the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister in the Assembly yesterday. The planting programme involves 18m new trees across 9,000 hectares of additional woodland.

Forests cover 8% of land in Northern Ireland, behind the UK average of 13%.

Just 200 hectares of woodland are planted here every year, compared to the 900 hectares recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.

The Lagan Valley MLA hopes the new programme will go some way in helping to contribute to the UK's 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target, alongside promoting economic growth and improving public health.

"More forests and more trees will help to mitigate climate change," said Mr Poots.

"Across its lifetime, typically one tree can absorb enough carbon dioxide to offset emissions from an average car travelling 3,000 miles.

"The forestry sector generates about £60m per annum from timber production activity, sustaining approximately 1,000 rural jobs.

"A further £60m-£80m is generated in the local economy from forest-based recreation and tourism.

"I want to further enhance that through this programme."

The minister confirmed that most of the new woodland would be created on public land.

"Existing publicly owned land, including local government land, has the greatest potential for woodland creation in the short term," he said.

"I have written to ministerial colleagues and chief executives of local councils seeking their support and commitment to make public land available for tree planting.

"I also plan to establish an Afforestation Forum to develop an action plan for increasing afforestation and I will oversee this work personally."

Belfast Telegraph