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Despite its suitability for forestry, Ireland has the lowest percentage of land mass under trees in Europe, currently at approximately 8% of total land area. The average forest cover in Europe is approximately 30% of total land area.

The potential for forestry investment in Ireland to yield long-term returns, ahead of inflation, has been recognized by institutional investors for some time, and pension funds, in particular, have invested heavily in Irish forestry. Forestry is a capital intensive investment, and greater returns are achieved by investing on a large scale. Direct access to forestry investment has therefore generally not been available to smaller investors. This fund provides an opportunity for smaller investors to pool their resources with others and to use their collective strength to invest on a large scale in cost effective acquisitions for the benefit of better long-term returns.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas and trees have a superb ability to take in this gas, trap the carbon and release the oxygen back into the atmosphere. A reduction in the amount of trees that are planted restricts our ability to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Urgency is added to this issue by the fact that Ireland signed a legally binding agreement, in 1998 in Luxembourg, undertaking that it's emissions of carbon dioxide would not increase by more than 13 percent between 1990 and 2010.

In addition, under the Kyoto Protocol, which is another legally binding international agreement, Ireland, together with the other countries that are parties to that agreement committed to reducing carbon emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels, by 2008-2012.

These commitments were given on the assumption that our national levels of tree planting would reach the targets set in the Government's strategy document for forestry. The reality is that planting levels, in 1998, were less than half what was projected.

The Director General for Energy of the European Commission, Pablo Benavides has warned that, unless Ireland takes appropriate measures, we will far exceed our legally binding level of carbon emissions.

Anything that encourages the amount of trees that are planted also increases the ability to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and therefore should be encouraged.