When the Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai received an offer from a US company to plant 1 million trees, Wangari’s answer was unequivocal: “What we need is a billion trees”. With these words, she launched the 2008 United Nations campaign. Four years later, the result was staggering: 12 billion trees planted.
We had the responsibility to organize the United Nations campaign in Spain, the European country most affected by climate change. During the first few days of the campaign, the counter on our website registered only 384 trees planted. After four years of continuous efforts our counter showed more than 47 million trees planted, with more than 60,000 hectares—150,000 acres—of land restored.
Reducing emissions seems a slow and difficult process, but eliminating some of the emissions we do not reduce is a simple and concrete action, with a measurable result. In that sense, the UN explains that the restoration of forests and degraded lands represents one of the most important and effective solutions we have today to curb climate change. Forests alone play a significant role against climate change, storing more than 40% of global CO2 emissions, mainly in tree trunks and soil.
The 12 billion trees planted during the UN campaign represent about 25 to 30 million hectares. The UN is calling now to restore 350 million hectares of degraded forestlands and landscapes by 2030 and to sustainably manage existing forests and the resources they provide. This would eliminate between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year, or up to 25% of our emissions. It would be a decisive result for the climate. More than 50 governments have already pledged to answer the UN call.
Arboreal invites the public to answer also the UN call by restoring nature and removing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. We launched the Mediterranean Green Belt to restore burned and desertified lands in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean has a magnificent natural heritage, offering its landscapes to millions of people who live there or who visit each year. But the Mediterranean is also one of the regions of the world that suffers the most from climate change
The Mediterranean Green Belt is an important restoration of nature, where it is needed most, and will undoubtedly represent the largest green infrastructure in southern Europe against climate change. Restoring the lands of the Mediterranean is giving back to nature the role it has always played: maintaining the balance between man and planet. It is not an act of generosity but an act of responsibility and the best way to invest in the future.