Aviva Ireland today announced that it has provided €5 million in funding to the Nature Trust, a not-for-profit company backed by Coillte and Forestry Partners, to help accelerate its native afforestation project.
The funding, the largest the Nature Trust has received to date, will result in the planting of approximately 1.2 million native tree saplings, creating 400 hectares (almost 1,000 acres) of new native woodlands across a number of sites throughout Ireland. To put this in context, this is equivalent to the size of over 560 Aviva Stadium pitches. The planting season for the new woodlands will begin this winter and continue over the coming years.
The native woodlands created will provide carbon sequestration – removing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and so helping to address climate change. In addition to the carbon removal, it will enhance existing and degraded biodiversity and create new biodiverse habitats, as well as providing free access to all for improved wellbeing and recreational amenities.
The woodlands will be made up of a mix of native trees that are best suited to each location, with species such as oak, birch, holly, alder, rowan, hawthorn, guelder rose, blackthorn and hazel. The new woodlands as they grow will provide habitats for wildlife, for example, native mammals such as red squirrels, pine martens, foxes, and badgers. They will also benefit many species of insects and pollinators and provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds, enhancing the biodiversity required to thrive. These woodlands will have free open access and will provide a space for the public to connect with nature, exercise and enjoy outdoor activities
According to a Central Statistics Office’s report issued last April, Ireland has currently one of the lowest levels of tree cover in all of Europe, with 11.6% forest cover but under 2% of our country’s land under native woodland. However, this initiative will contribute significantly to national afforestation targets, and to Ireland meeting its climate commitments.
Virginia Lawlor, Chief Financial Officer, Aviva Life & Pensions said: “Last year Aviva announced its ambition to become a net zero business by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. This encompasses all areas of our business, including our operations and supply chains where we are targeting net zero by 2030, and our investments and underwriting, which have a target date of net zero by 2040. To achieve this ambitious goal, we are looking to have an all-electric company car fleet by 2025 as well as a cut of 25% in the carbon intensity of our investments by 2025 and of 60% by 2030 from a 2019 baseline.”
Declan O’Rourke, CEO, Aviva Insurance Ireland, explained: “Sustainability is of strategic importance to us as a business, from purchasing renewable electricity for our offices in Ireland since 2011 to the funding we are providing today. Climate change is a systemic risk impacting society, businesses, our business and our customers. No single company can tackle climate change alone and so we are looking to work in partnership with others.”
He added: “Funding afforestation is one of the many ways that we will positively impact communities and provide environmental and recreational benefits to the public, whilst creating a legacy for our customers, communities, and the environment. What better and more tangible way of doing this than investing in the planting of new native woodlands in communities across Ireland? There are 1.2 million families in Ireland**, the same amount of trees that this project will yield, so it’s wonderful to think that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy these woodlands in the future.”
Ciarán Fallon, Managing Director of the Nature Trust, said: “The Nature Trust welcomes this major funding from Aviva as we are facing a twin climate and biodiversity crisis and this initiative responds to both. This is a significant step forward in our mission to increase the level of native woodland cover in Ireland on a large scale. We are delighted to work with Aviva, who have a strong track record in the area of sustainability. These new native woodlands will be managed for nature with public access in perpetuity, for the benefit of people, nature and climate”