By Justin Adams is Director of Nature Based Solutions at the World Economic Forum and Jad Daley is President & CEO of American Forests
We need more trees. They are key to tackling the climate crisis and supporting countless unique types of animals and plants. They’re also vital to jobs, business and our health.
In the US alone, forests currently capture 15% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. We believe there’s an opportunity to double this. Trees absorb air pollutants, which helps prevent up to 670,000 cases of asthma and other acute respiratory symptoms annually in the US. Research has shown that, for every million dollars invested in forest restoration in the US, 40 new jobs are created. Globally, the sustainable management of forests could create $230 billion in business opportunities and 16 million jobs worldwide by 2030.
Too often, we have neglected them. But it’s clear that a future with more forests is key to the resilience of our economy, people and our planet.
Fortunately, across the world, people are embracing the power of trees to address social inequalities, the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.
African nations across the edge of the Sahara joined together to begin planting a 5,000-mile “Great Green Wall” of trees to combat desertification. In Pakistan, the government pays people out of work to plant 10 billion trees. In China, a mobile app has funded the planting of more than 120 million trees.
In the US, a nationwide bi-partisan movement is also building. In the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, volunteers of all ages, from both sides of the border, come together annually to replant the ecologically priceless thorn forests that once covered this region. Across California, public-private partnerships have sprung up to reforest burned areas, such as the Camp Fire, using tree species that can better withstand future wildfires in a rapidly warming climate.
Urban tree planting initiatives are flourishing in diverse cities across the US. From Phoenix to Providence, they are seeking to remedy vast inequities of tree cover by income and race. This is vital, because the cooling effect of trees is needed to help protect cities from the rising threat of extreme heat on display across the US this summer.
This global momentum is what inspired the World Economic Forum in January to launch 1t.org, an inclusive platform to support the global effort to conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees worldwide by 2030. Now, the Forum and American Forests are partnering to accelerate that vision through US leadership at home and abroad.
We believe the US has a significant leadership role to play, one that is inclusive, bi-partisan and captures the American spirit for hard-work and innovation. Our vision is for governments at all levels, corporations, non-profit organizations, scientists, entrepreneurs and community groups to work side-by-side to protect and restore our forests and ensure they flourish for future generations. Many are already doing critical but unheralded work—but they need more support. Not just in the form of funding and technical assistance, but in the form of public energy and momentum.
This can be done. In July, bipartisan leaders in Washington, DC came together to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, our nation’s largest forest conservation measure in 50 years. Leaders from the 25 U.S. Climate Alliance states and mayors across America are also making bold new public policies to conserve, restore and grow our forests. More federal legislation is on the way, including the bipartisan REPLANT Act that would reforest 1.2 billion trees on America’s national forests by 2030 and support almost 49,000 jobs.
But it’s not just about government. From tech to retail to finance, businesses are committing to conserve forests and plant millions of trees. Youth groups and faith organizations are leading new tree planting initiatives to engage their members. Families and individuals are joining the effort. It is an exciting time, but we still have a long way to go.
That is why, this week, we are launching the U.S. Chapter of 1t.org, led by American Forests and the Forum. Our goal is to inspire everyone to do more, and to help them do it better. Already, the chapter has secured pledges of more than 855 million trees to be planted or conserved, and billions of dollars in supporting actions, such as mapping technology and carbon finance, which will lead to many more trees.
By working with far-sighted individuals and organizations, we can secure a prosperous and sustainable future for us and our planet. Our ambition should be nothing less.