A trillion trees for survival

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An article by Felix Finkbeiner, Plant-for-the-Planet
 

The idea of the trees was sparked by a school presentation I gave about the climate crisis when I was in year four. I read about Wangari Maathai, who along with many other women planted 30 million trees in Africa over the course of 30 years. What a brilliant idea, I thought – anyone can plant a tree, and every tree absorbs CO2. At the end of my presentation, I said to my classmates: “Let’s plant a million trees in every country in the world!” At Plant-for-the-Planet, more than 88,000 children and young people from 74 countries – as Climate Justice Ambassadors – are now calling for a trillion trees to be planted for our future.

Why one trillion, specifically?

Before we humans began farming the land and building settlements, the Earth was home to six trillion trees. Now there are only three trillion left, and we lose around 15 billion each year. The good news is that there is enough space to expand our forests by one trillion trees. This requires us only to reforest areas that have been cleared. The one trillion extra trees will buy us ten to 15 years more time to take resolute steps to counter the climate crisis and achieve the 2°C limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement after all.

However, it’s not enough simply to plant lots of trees; we have to plant them in the right way. Many years ago, we visited a reforestation project on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Though the local government had planted millions of trees, the survival rate was just 22%. We want to show that reforestation can be done much more successfully and efficiently, so we launched our own project to replant 22,500 hectares of destroyed rain forest. Our team there is now planting on average one tree every 15 seconds – with a growth rate of 94% in the first year and costs of just one euro per planted and cultivated tree.

Restoring forests in a way that makes ecological sense

Although our growth rate is already amazingly good, we are going one step further: we have set up test areas that should help us better understand carbon sequestration in the biomass and in the forest soils, while taking biodiversity into account at the same time. This knowledge will benefit everyone who is committed to preserving and restoring forests. We want to encourage people to copy our model and show how replanting lost forests offers a great opportunity for humankind.

This can only be done by undertaking joint global efforts, however. This is why we have developed an app that gives reforestation organisations all over the world access to donated funds. It is open source, and 100% of the donations go to the selected planting projects.

In everything we do, we strive to achieve our supreme objective: to save the future of us young people by preserving forests as a natural carbon sink. Only if we plant one trillion additional trees, while also protecting existing trees, and the rain forests in particular, will we be able to achieve the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement. However, just to avoid any misunderstanding, this will only be possible if we drastically reduce our carbon emissions at the same time, starting right now. Trees alone cannot halt the climate crisis.