Dublin, Ireland – 21 April 2017 - 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 prin​ciples 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.

 “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.  

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

About Natural Capital Partners

Natural Capital Partners works with clients to combine business success with positive impact on the environment and society.  Through collaboration with global project partners the company develops and delivers solutions for renewable energy sourcing, forest protection and restoration, water stewardship, and biodiversity conservation in clients’ operational, supply chain and consumer markets, in addition to its award-winning carbon offset solutions, and CarbonNeutral® certification programmes.  The company was founded in 1997 and has more than 300 clients in 34 countries.

About Forest Carbon

Forest Carbon is the leader in developing new UK woodlands for the voluntary carbon market. Founded in 2006, the company has so far partnered with environmentally conscientious businesses in the creation of over 120 new woodlands countrywide, totaling almost 5 million trees planted and with over 1 million tonnes of CO2 capture underway. Projects are quality assured under the UK government’s Woodland Carbon Code (WCC), and Forest Carbon was the first company to achieve WCC certification for a project. Forest Carbon works with businesses of all types and size, and projects are planted in partnership with a range of public, charitable and private landowners. The woodlands will deliver a host of benefits beyond helping in the fight against climate change, including habitat for nature, flood mitigation, cleaner rivers, employment, and public access.

About Green Belt

Green Belt Limited, established in 1982, is Ireland's largest privately owned forest establishment and management company.  Through a network of 19 experienced forest managers, supported by a three person GIS team, plus administrative support, Green Belt establishes, on average, 2,500 ha of new forests each year. This represents a one third market share of the National Afforestation programme. Green Belt currently manages in excess of 280,000 acres of privately owned woodlands, builds 20 Km of new forest roads per annum and harvests in excess of 150,000 tonnes of timber from thinning and clear fell.  Green Belt also offers forest investment opportunities at individual, private pension and company level both at home and abroad and has launched and closed successful investments in Ireland, Scotland and Panama.