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10 July 2019

Tree planting has potential to have great impact on climate change mitigation says new study

A new study led by researchers in ICLEI Member Zurich (Switzerland) concludes that tree planting has the potential to have a large impact on tackling climate change.

Several cities have already factored urban forests and trees into their sustainability plans, including ICLEI Members. Last year, Tirana (Albania) was shortlisted for the Transformative Action Award for their work planting an “orbital forest” of two million trees circling the city to improve air quality and to prevent urban sprawl. Lisbon (Portugal)’s Green Infrastructure Programme includes extensive tree planting, with more than 60,000 trees having been planted so far, and a goal to reach 80,000 new trees by 2021. These examples are in addition to tree planting strategies from Members Aberdeen (United Kingdom), Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain), and Nijmegen (The Netherlands), among many others.

This is great news, given the results of new research that maps areas around the world that currently do not have trees, are areas where native tree saplings would naturally grow, and are not urban areas or being used to grow crops. It found that there are 1.7 billion hectares of land across the globe on which trees could be planted without encroaching on cities or cropland. Furthermore, tree planting on these areas could remove up to an incredible two-thirds of all emissions that have been released into the atmosphere by human activity.

Within Europe, it is Ireland, Central Europe, and the United Kingdom that hold particularly large amounts of treeless land suitable to tree planting and reforestation.

This study serves to alter perspectives on forest restoration, indicating that this solution is much more potentially impactful than many previously believed. Furthermore, tree planting is a solution that communities already know about and have the capacity to implement. It can meaningfully involve a diversity of stakeholders including individual citizens, and is relatively far cheaper than many other climate change mitigation strategies, particularly those that rely on complex and expensive technological solutions.

The impact of forest restoration also serves to encourage governments at all levels to factor large-scale tree planting into their sustainability plans and policies. This can, for example, include financial incentives for land owners to tree plant.

For more information on the study, click here. To read the original publication in full, click here.