EU approves €308m in State aid for forestry planting plan

Programme to support planting of 8,000 hectares of diverse forests every year to 2027

The European Commission has approved €308 million in Government aid to boost forest planting in the Republic, EU officials have confirmed.

The Government this year launched a €1.3 billion forestry programme aimed at increasing new tree planting and expanding supplies of timber, a key building material.

The European Commission has approved €308 million of the proposed State aid, specifically aimed at increasing “afforestation”, that is, planting new forests.

EU officials said the aid would support planting of 8,000 hectares of new, diverse forests every year, increasing tree cover in the Republic to 18 per cent of its land by the end of 2027, from 11.6 per cent today.


“Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants covering up to 100 per cent of the eligible costs,” said the commission.

It said the scheme was open to companies of all sizes in the forestry industry and would end on December 31st, 2027.

The commission found the scheme was necessary and appropriate to support Irish forest planting.

“It will strengthen environmental protection, including biodiversity and climate action, and contribute to achieving the EU’s environmental and climate-related objectives,” said the statement, adding that it would benefit rural Ireland.

The commission and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which hands out the grants, confirmed that the aid approved was only for the afforestation element of the €1.3 billion plan.

“The programme also contains support measures for sustainable forest management and other measures to support the sector and we await separate state aid approval from the commission in respect of some of these interventions, while others have already been approved,” said the department.

Officials also noted that the €308 million covered grants and premiums given in 2023-2027 only. “Premiums will be paid for up to 20 years to cover the full afforestation commitment for new planting,” they said.

European law mostly bans state aid where it distorts normal commercial competition, particularly between EU member states. However, it supports state support in some circumstances, including for projects aimed at tackling climate change.

Government plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions include planting new forests, as trees soak up carbon dioxide, the substance most responsible for heating the atmosphere.

The commission’s statement said the Republic’s afforestation aid scheme was proportionate with a limited impact on competition and trade between EU member states.

Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Pippa Hackett, his Minister of State colleague, welcomed the commission’s decision.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas