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Our most powerful natural allies

Rebecca Fay | 17 March 2020 |

They’re heralded as one of the best tools for climate action and more and more businesses are recognising their value. While they’re certainly not new, trees are officially trending. Their protection and planting represents 70% of the total potential of natural climate solutions. Yet beyond their innate ability to drawdown carbon, they benefit biodiversity, the people who depend on them for their livelihoods, and the ecosystems services we rely on such as clean water. What’s not to love?

Our most powerful natural allies

It is 2050…In most places in the world, the air is moist and fresh, even in cities. It feels a lot like walking through a forest, and very likely this is exactly what you are doing. The air is cleaner than it has been since before the Industrial Revolution.

You have trees to thank for that. They are everywhere.”

This rosy picture is from a new book, The Future We Choose, by the former head of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, and Tom Rivett-Carnac. It contrasts the world we are on track to create with our current rate of carbon emissions vs. the world we must create. In the vision for the world we must create, trees take the lion’s share of the credit for creating a beautiful, healthy environment for us to live in. In this scenario, it’s not just their ability to efficiently drawdown and store carbon that convinces prominent leaders to invest in trees; it’s their value to us.

Three examples from around the world provide inspiration for a forested future:

In eastern Kenya, tea and coffee company Bettys & Taylors recognises the importance of trees in preventing soil erosion, drought and desertification on the smallholdings that supply its products. The company supports a community reforestation project to encourage tree planting coupled with climate-smart agriculture. The programme, which has the potential to engage 90,000 farmers in Kenya and neighbouring Uganda, delivers carbon retention by planting and conserving trees, but additionally improves smallholder crop yields and lowers farming costs. The trees produce marketable commodities such as fruits, nuts, and honey, and act as a source of medicine for the local community.

In Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the western state of Acre is under threat from rapid deforestation that could see forest cover drop to 65% from 95% by 2030. Deforestation is one of the greatest threats to our natural world. According to a recent paper from the Royal Society, avoided forest conversion offers more than twice as much of the cost-effective climate mitigation potential as the next most cost-effective (reforestation). “Protection pathways also consistently offer the most diverse set of biodiversity and ecosystem services benefits,” the paper concludes.

We urgently need to take steps to protect forest landscapes around the world, including rainforests, temperate forests, peatlands and mangroves.

The Acre Rainforest Conservation project is designed to keep existing trees standing. Clients support projects like this primarily because of the role that trees play in climate action and aiding them to deliver on their carbon neutral commitments, while also helping reduce inequality, alleviate poverty, and in this case, protecting the habitats of eight IUCN-listed endangered species.

It was like somebody turned up the nature volume,” commented Amber Harrison when visiting the Rimba Raya forest conservation reserve in Indonesia. Amber is Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at multinational air travel technology company SITA. This is how she described the sensory experience of walking from an isolated area of degraded marsh - deforested, overused by fish farms and since abandoned - into an area where mangroves have been replanted around the edge of the reserve. The Rimba Raya project is conserving carbon-dense tropical peat swamp from palm oil plantation. By working closely with the 2,500 households in the forest-based communities, the project is improving food security, creating new income opportunities and protecting the biodiversity of the area, which includes the endangered Borneo orangutan.

The humble tree is one of our most powerful and reliable natural allies. Their significant role in reducing atmospheric emissions will continue to be important to our health and biodiversity long into the future. Moreover, we depend on trees for their commercial benefits, whether it’s for food, fuel or fibre.

Businesses around the world are stepping up to finance a whole range of natural climate solutions, yet we are still some way from the scale required to realise their full potential. We need more companies to raise ambition, and then we can achieve the significant changes we need to protect and restore one of our most precious natural resources: trees.

We can still choose the future we want to create.

Contact us to find out how your business can support forest conservation and afforestation projects around the world.

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