In Brief

Could planting a trillion trees help counteract climate change?

Donald Trump has backed the environmental initiative - but is it enough?

Rainforest.jpg

Donald Trump has announced that the US will back an initiative to plant, restore and conserve a trillion trees.

“We're committed to conserving the majesty of God's creation and the natural beauty of our world,” he said yesterday.

During the keynote speech at the World Economic Forum he rejected the “perennial prophets of doom” and “predictors of the apocalypse” on climate.

But he backed the tree-planting initiative, saying: “What I want is the cleanest water and the cleanest air.”

Where did the idea come from?

The Trillion Trees initiative was launched in 2017 by leading conservation groups WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society and BirdLife International.

They say that the planet is losing 10bn trees a year and the headline-grabbing target is needed to redress this. They add that “we must understand that time is not on our side and if we want to heal the planet, we must make every day count.”

Forests soak up more than 45% of carbon on land, helping to offset the effects of climate change. They are home to two thirds of all land-based plants and animals, and clean our air and water.

Is it enough?

Writing for The Guardian, Fiona Harvey insists that “to make a real impact… tree fans must take on some of the biggest vested interests on the planet”.

She adds: “Fossil fuel businesses are rightly regarded as the main culprits in rising global emissions, but the food we eat, clothes we wear and stuff we use takes a heavy toll”.

Speaking to Discover last year, forest ecologist Simon Lewis said: “Yes, plantations have fast carbon uptake while the trees are growing. But as soon as those trees are used, much of that carbon gets back into the atmosphere.”

Carla Staver, an ecologist at Yale University, also said the initiative has its limits, telling Wired: “The reality is, there are no easy answers. The solution to these problems is going to involve tough choices, changes in lifestyle.

“We can’t propose that… planting a bunch of trees is going to get us to a solution without making systemic changes to the way we emit carbon as well.”

Is it a feasible ambition?

Critics are often quick to dismiss mass tree-planting plans. When the Labour Party promised at last year's general election to plant two billion trees by 2040, Richard Schondelmeier, a forestry expert, told The Sun that the pledge would be a “logistical nightmare or even impossibility”.

What do campaigners think?

Teenage enviromental activist Greta Thunberg said: “Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough, and it cannot replace real mitigation and re-wilding nature. We don’t need to lower emissions. Emissions need to stop.”

Jennifer Morgan, Greenpeace’s executive director, struck a similar note, saying: “The 1tn trees initiative didn’t make up for the lack of a wider attack on the climate emergency.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Recommended

CBI: climate action can spur UK economic recovery
A rainbow illuminates the sky above a wind farm near Sheffield
In Depth

CBI: climate action can spur UK economic recovery

The four biggest problems on Putin’s desk
Vladimir Putin pictured in March
Behind the scenes

The four biggest problems on Putin’s desk

‘Loneliest birthday’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Loneliest birthday’

TikToker says we are all dead
The TikTok logo on an iPhone
Tall Tales

TikToker says we are all dead

Popular articles

15 most expensive English towns outside of London
Virginia Water, Surrey
In Depth

15 most expensive English towns outside of London

What is Donald Trump doing now?
Donald Trump
In Depth

What is Donald Trump doing now?

Covid holiday test costs
Heathrow Terminal 5 passenger
Getting to grips with . . .

Covid holiday test costs