Ireland’s plan to spend millions of Euro on new forests has been approved by the EU.

The European Commission concluded that a €308 million scheme to support afforestation will lead to the “expansion of the Irish national forest estate on both public and private land”.

The EU praised the concept which it said will “deliver lasting benefits for the climate, biodiversity, wood production, economic development, employment, and quality of life.”

By 2027, Ireland hopes to achieve 18 per cent forest cover, up from just over 11 per cent today, according to government data.

The European Commission has also approved €45 million in government funds “to promote sustainable forest management”

“The [European] Commission found that the scheme is necessary and appropriate to support and strengthen environmental protection, including biodiversity and climate action”

EU state aid rules for agriculture were updated earlier this year to be aligned to “strategic priorities, notably the common agricultural policy and the European Green Deal.”

Under the forestry scheme, Irish farmers will be able to receive grants, “covering up to 100% of the eligible costs”.

The Irish government says it is part of a €1.3 billion investment in forests and a “longer term vision…to increase our forest cover” by 2050, according to forestry minister, Senator Pippa Hackett.

The EU said the aim of the scheme is “to support landowners implement economically, ecologically and socially sustainable forest management and use techniques to: (i) promote the growth of forests, (ii) protect biodiversity, soil and water quality and the forest landscape, (iii) adapt forests to climate change, and (iv) increase the ability of forests to store carbon. Under the scheme, which will run until 31 December 2027…”

Ireland’s Agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue, said it will “attract and reward farmers”.

Different kinds of trees and landscapes will be eligible for different grants under the scheme, with the highest receiving €10,000 per hectare per year. Premiums will be handed out for up to 20 years.