Trees for the World

What would be effective measures and structures to plant 1 trillion trees in a sustainable and community-based way as quick as possible?

This is a draft proposal to initiate a global, private structure to speed up the reforestation of the planet.

We need to scale up the process of reforestation and the recovery of ecosystems in general, and we need to do it quickly. Tom Crowther, a known British scientist, founder and head of the CrowtherLab at Zurich University, recently rocked the boat firmly by announcing that there is enough place on earth to plant an extra trillion of trees. According to their research this amount could capture around the equivalent of 10 years of worldwide CO2 emissions. That is an impact that makes a difference to the climate! And, as everybody by now knows, trees and forests do so much more. They enhance and protect biodiversity, regulate local climate, store abundant water, protect soil from erosion, offer food, shelter, medicine and building material to animals and people.

There are many great initiatives worldwide for reforestation. However, so far they have failed to compensate for the net loss of 10 billion trees every year. More decisive and impactful action is needed to underline the importance of forest conservation and to realize the planting of 1 trillion trees.


Related questions and hypotheses

How much money is needed?

A huge amount of money is needed. At least a trillion euros, but it could rise to several trillions depending on the fact whether it is necessary to compensate landowners for loss of economic value of the land.  (If 8 billion people on earth contribute 10 dollar per year, ten years long, we would come close to the first trillion needed!).

Who should pay for the trees?

Massive reforestation concerns and benefits everybody and everyone should contribute. Commitment and (some) money from sovereign states and governments are necessary to safeguard the sustainability of the new, extended or rejuvenated forests. To kickstart this massive reforestation initiative a huge global pledge is necessary. This is a unique opportunity for corporates to demonstrate their common commitment to a sustainable planet and to regain confidence from consumers. By committing themselves to the same operational mechanism,  e.g. 10 euros or dollars per employee p. a. during the next ten years, a level playing field is created and transparency concerning everyone’s sincerity. The acknowledgement of the value and therefore the protection of existing forests will be integral part of the agreement. This would probably be an even bigger and more impactful achievement than rising the money. But time is ready!

How to select promising area’s and an appropriate ecological approach?

The Crowtherlab in Zurich is specialized in this on a global scale. They  claim to have the knowledge to prioritize the area’s for reforestation, the approach and the species. The Lab has gained an international reputation and could act as independent expert to validate, challenge or enrich local expertise, or chair a board of international experts.

How to select projects and partners?

There are at least two different kind of project partners. Only in the Netherlands we have 8 or even more NGO’s of a certain size that raise and deploy money to fund reforestation projects and landscape restoration in foreign countries. All of them have policies in place for the selection of projects and local partners. These policies have much in common. The NGO’s have experienced that each project must be tailormade and community-based to be sustainable. And they have learned that it takes a long breath before you can call your efforts a success! That is something we have to be transparent about. The question is to what extent these NGO’s and their peers in other countries are able to scale up.

On the other hand we have initiatives from the different countries themselves. Turkey, India, Ethiopia are examples of countries that have engaged in massive tree planting, recently. Whether the incentive of gaining or beating a Guinness record  and top-down campaigns lead to sustainable and ethical reforestation has to be proven. But in most countries of the world there is awareness and a growing interest from governments to grass root initiatives to start reforestation project. There are some overarching global structures in place where one can apply for recognition and/or co-funding, like the UN-EP or the Bonn Challenge. An assessment has to be done whether these structures are effective and which lessons are learned so far. I suppose that an agile, private entity is needed to speed and scale up.