This article was published on: 06/10/16 12:23 PM
With another successful Earth Day behind us, one of the things that Earth Day Network (EDN) is now focusing its attention on is its theme for 2016: Trees for the Earth. As part of its Canopy Project, EDN announced a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day’s 50th anniversary in 2020. That’s one tree for every person on the planet in 2020.
We recognize that this is an ambitious goal, but we’re taking it on because this is the level of action the world needs and the effort will contribute to the fight against climate change, help protect biodiversity, and support forest dependent communities. Since 2010, when the Canopy Project was launched, EDN has planted over thirty million trees in more than 30 countries. In the process, we have empowered communities to conserve and increase forest cover on their lands while improving their local economies. We still have a long way to go to reach 7.8 billion, but large-scale projects are already in the works and we’re excited for what’s yet to come.
One of the main reasons EDN is engaged in the Canopy Project is because increasing forest cover is a proven and relatively cost-effective way to combat climate change. In fact, substantial mitigation from the land sector, which includes reforestation and afforestation projects, will be necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep global average temperature rise “well below” 2° Celsius. Gross deforestation currently accounts for around a quarter of all carbon emissions globally. This makes it one of the leading sources of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, we still have the ability to significantly reign in forest-related carbon emissions by working to halt forest destruction and furthering reforestation efforts. As much as 24% of climate mitigation potential globally could be achieved by focusing on tropical forests alone. This is a huge opportunity to make a difference. And best of all, this approach to combating climate change doesn’t require any new risky or high-cost technologies. It relies on the indisputable and affordable ability of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
Beyond contributing to the fight against climate change, forest restoration projects also benefit people and the environment in a multitude of other ways. For example, they can help reduce the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to current and future climate change. Among other things, this can involve the furnishing of ecosystem services such as clean water, the maintenance of soil quality, and protection against soil erosion. Forests are also crucial to the survival of the more than a billion people worldwide that directly depend on them for their livelihood. This means that when forests flourish, people flourish.
Another important benefit of forest restoration is the provision of habitat for numerous forest-dependent species. Saving orangutans from extinction and helping them recover by creating more habitat for them, for example, may be difficult to put a price tag on, but few would dispute that we should try. In an age of mass extinction, protecting biodiversity will be difficult, but forest restoration offers one of the few straightforward ways it can be done.
For these reasons and many more, EDN’s goal of planting 7.8 billion trees by 2020 deserves your support. We’ve set the bar high because there isn’t much time left. Now, more than ever, we have to do everything we can to fight for a stable climate, protect global biodiversity, and improve the livelihoods of as many people as possible. We hope you’ll follow our progress toward this ambitious goal. After all, we’re all in this together.