Many people think that planting more trees is the natural solution to deforestation and climate change. In fact, this view is surprisingly widespread. 90 per cent of American adults approve of planting a trillion trees to fight climate change.1
In 2019, even the British newspaper The Daily Mail – hardly known for its environmentalism – urged readers to plant a tree.2 But will such solutions stop deforestation?
Existing solutions to stop deforestation: Are they enough?
Our current approach to stop deforestation is clearly not working. We are still losing forest cover worldwide at an alarming rate. A forest area – the same size as the UK – is being lost every year, a report found in 2019. But we can’t tackle deforestation simply through promises by world leaders, said Charlotte Streck, who published the report. “We don’t need more important guys standing up making pledges. We need to go beyond declarations”, she stated. Government and companies can only tackle deforestation through proper financing, detailed plans and on-the-ground implementation.3
Campaigners say that governments need to allocate more money to stopping deforestation. The funds can be used for enforcement against illegal land-grabbing, illegal burning of forest land and to help local communities preserve forest land. It would also help if governments got better at tracking food in the supply chain to ensure that it is coming from legitimate sources.4
What countries are implementing solutions to stop deforestation that actually work?
There are several countries with strong solutions in place to tackle deforestation. Some have increased their forest cover through time and investment. In recent years, Indonesia has significantly reduced its rates of deforestation by restricting land clearing, tackling illegal forest cutting and limiting the spread of forest fires.5 Much of this enforcement came after international pressure from NGOs, companies and governments.6
China and India lead the way in forestation
There has been even greater progress across China and India. Since 2000, a full quarter of all new ‘greening’ around the world has taken place in China alone.7 The Chinese government has implemented the largest forestation project in the world by paying farmers to grow new trees and restore forest landscapes.8
Putting pressure on governments and paying farmers to increase forest cover are two solutions to deforestation that have proved to be successful. In Ethiopia, the government went even further and engaged its public in a mass tree-planting exercise in 2019. The aim was not just to plant four billion trees in a year, but also to educate people about the importance of trees to national well-being.9
- Tyson, A. and Kennedy, B. (2020). Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on Climate. [online] Pew Research Center Science & Society. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/06/23/two-thirds-of-americans-think-government-should-do-more-on-climate/.
- Hardman, R. (2019). You’re not just planting trees, you’re planting a miracle. [online] Mail Online. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7678715/Youre-not-just-planting-trees-youre-planting-miracle-writes-ROBERT-HARDMAN.html [Accessed 10 May 2021].
- Harvey, F. (2019). World losing area of forest the size of the UK each year, report finds. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/12/deforestation-world-losing-area-forest-size-of-uk-each-year-report-finds.
- Scherer, G. (2018). Brazil has the tools to end Amazon deforestation now: report. [online] Mongabay Environmental News. Available at: https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/brazil-has-the-tools-to-end-amazon-deforestation-now-report/.
- Jong, H. N. (2021). Deforestation in Indonesia hits record low, but experts fear a rebound. [online] Mongabay Environmental News. Available at: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/03/2021-deforestation-in-indonesia-hits-record-low-but-experts-fear-a-rebound/ [Accessed 12 May 2021].
- forestdeclaration.org. (2019). Indonesia: A sign of hope for reducing deforestation? | New York Declaration on Forests. [online] Forest Declaration. Available at: https://forestdeclaration.org/the-latest/case-study-indonesia.
- Carbon Brief. (2019). One-third of the world’s new vegetation in China and India, satellite data shows. [online] Available at: https://www.carbonbrief.org/one-third-worlds-new-vegetation-in-china-and-india-satellite-data-shows.
- CIFOR Forests News. (2018). In China, paying farmers to restore forest landscapes. [online] Available at: https://forestsnews.cifor.org/53502/in-china-paying-farmers-to-restore-forest-landscapes?fnl= [Accessed 10 May 2021].
- phys.org. (2020). Despite snags, Ethiopia scales up massive tree-planting campaign. [online] Available at: https://phys.org/news/2020-06-snags-ethiopia-scales-massive-tree-planting.html [Accessed 10 May 2021].