Over the last couple of years, scientists have increasingly underlined the key role that reforestation can play in tackling climate change and, more recently, a growing number of reputable companies have pledged to plant trees as part of their sustainability efforts.
Salesforce, for instance, plans to conserve and restore 100 million trees over the next 10 years. Mastercard plans to reach the same number in five years. Footwear manufacturer Timberland is also on its way to plant 50 million trees. Clif Bar is adding 750,000. Microsoft, which plans to invest in reforestation as one piece of a strategy to become carbon negative, is developing technology fo conservation organizations.
All of these companies are among 26 businesses, organizations, and cities that make up the new U.S. chapter of 1t.org, the movement to plant and conserve a trillion trees globally.
The new group is coordinating pro-forest efforts that have grown quickly over the last few years. It’s designed to accelerate work to protect and plant trees, but also to make sure it happens strategically.
“We don’t just need to do more, but we need to do it better,” says Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, the nonprofit conservation organization leading the national effort with the World Economic Forum. “We are all learning our way into some really complicated challenges—things like how to reforest in a changing climate.”
The wildfires currently burning in California are one example. Instead of restoring these burned-out areas the same way they were before, conservationists are looking to replant species that are best suited for a changing climate, and trees with genetics that are better suited to tolerate drought or resist pests.
By one estimate, there’s room in the United States to grow 60 billion new trees, which could capture half a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. So far, the pledges from the initial organizations and cities in the group add up to 855 million trees that will be conserved and planted.
That number, however, is only expected to grow. Bank of America, for example, has pledged $300 million in climate finance that will support new tree-planting projects, though that commitment hasn’t yet been translated into the number of trees it will impact. Others are expected to quickly join the effort, including the federal government.
The broad support in the coalition means that the work to protect and restore forests will happen now at a larger scale than it ever has before. “We really do believe that we’re better positioned than ever before to set a goal like a trillion trees and actually be able to get there,” Daley says.