Planting trees most cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions
Reforestation and other natural climate solutions could cost-effectively provide 37% of the CO2 emissions reductions needed to hold global warming below 2˚C as set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
That is according to a new international study, which shows 11.3 billion tonnes of emissions could be cut by 2030 through better stewardship of the land – equivalent to halting the burning of oil.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers conclude that trees have the greatest potential to cost-effectively cut emissions, naturally removing CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow.
“If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport,” The Nature Conservancy CEO, Mark Tercek, said.
“We are going to have to increase food and timber production to meet the demand of a growing population, but we know we must do so in a way that addresses climate change.”
Without cost constraints, it is estimated that natural climate solutions have the potential to deliver emissions reductions close to a third greater than previously concluded by the UN in 2014.
The research shows that increasing the number and size of trees through reforestation, avoiding forest loss, and better forestry practices, could remove seven billion tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030.
That is the equivalent of taking 1.5 billion gasoline-burning cars off the road; however, it is thought that success largely depends on better agricultural practices.
It was concluded that reducing the footprint of livestock would release vast areas across the globe for trees, and that this can be achieved while safeguarding food security.
In addition, improved forestry practices across expanded and existing working forests can produce more wood fiber while storing more carbon, maintaining biodiversity, and helping clean air and water.
The researchers found that the top five countries where forests could reduce emissions the most are Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and India.
“This research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems, putting them at the heart of delivering both the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals,” Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, said.