With climate change accelerating, how much should we rely on tree planting to save us?

With climate change accelerating, how much should we rely on tree planting to save us?

by Frederikke Bøcker
Tree planting

As the world races to stop climate change, trees are receiving more attention for the role they play in cooling the climate. The benefits of trees are clear in their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and store it for long periods without requiring expensive technology when compared with other methods that have been proposed as means toward mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Research indicates that natural climate solutions, such as forest conservation and restoration, can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation needed in the next decade to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

But as tree planting becomes more popular, there’s growing skepticism about whether or not it’s effective. With climate change accelerating, how much should we rely on tree planting to save us?

The Holistic Approach

One of the main concerns about tree planting is that it distracts us from addressing the underlying problem: That our society is releasing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), that are warming the Earth’s climate to levels we have never experienced before. This is a valid concern, and tree planting should never be treated as a fix-all solution or substitute for reducing emissions. Trees will definitely help us slow climate change, but they won’t reverse it on their own. Instead, we should take a holistic approach to address climate change.

At EcoHotels.com, we believe this begins first and foremost with reducing carbon emissions. There are many ways that we can accomplish this. The first and most obvious is to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels by adopting low-carbon practices. 

EcoHotels.com was founded in 2020 as what we believe to be the most sustainable booking site you can find. EcoHotels.com only represents and cooperates with hotels that are committed to sustainability, go the extra mile to reduce the environmental footprint, and have the trustworthy certifications to prove it. We pledge to make it simple, transparent, and easy for travelers to make conscious and sustainable choices. 

Besides promoting hotels that strive to minimize their environmental impact, EcoHotels.com plants one tree for every booking made.

Which is better: planting new trees or protecting existing forests? 

It is worth bearing in mind that planting a new forest won’t immediately restore what was lost. It can take decades for the young trees to sequester the amount of carbon that the old ones were storing.

Research shows that preventing the loss of one hectare of existing, mature forest typically avoids about 100 tons of carbon emissions. On the other hand, one hectare of restored forest sequesters around 3 metric tons of carbon each year. That means it would take at least 30 years for the new forest to capture the same amount of carbon that was stored in the old forest.

Sadly, the world’s forests are actively being destroyed at an alarming rate. When trees die, they don’t just lose their ability to absorb more carbon – they also release much of the carbon they were storing back into the atmosphere. In 2020, more than 10 million acres of undisturbed tropical forest were lost. This forest loss emitted the same amount of carbon as 570 million cars do in an entire year! That’s why it’s best to keep trees standing and prevent them from being destroyed in the first place. 

But this doesn’t mean we should neglect forest restoration as an effective tool against global warming. Tree planting can be another powerful weapon in the fight against climate change, but only when it’s done right

This is because reforestation is more complicated than finding an open plot of land and planting a ton of trees. Reforestation is a complicated process that requires more care to get right.

Before choosing a tree-planting program, there are five things that need your attention:

  • 1. Does the project focus on the health of the whole ecosystem? 
  • 2. What will happen to the trees after they are planted? 
  • 3. Is the project addressing the root cause of deforestation? 
  • 4. Are local communities involved in the project? 
  • 5. Is the project third-party verified?

At Ecohotels.com, we plant a tree every time you book with us. We have already planted 25.000 trees and will continue planting trees throughout Denmark as you book. Help us plant a forest and support our ecosystem by booking with us.

Today, 30% of the world’s 60,000 known tree species are facing extinction and global forest areas have decreased by about 40% during the past 300 years. Scientists and experts are calling for action. Forest areas are highly important for our climate, maintenance of the CO2 balance, and our biodiversity. While the tropical forests are the most threatened, many places with colder climates are also facing threatened species.

Forest areas are highly important for our climate, maintenance of the CO2 balance, and our biodiversity. So far we have planted willow trees at Saltofte, Denmark.

The advantage of planting willow trees is that they have a cyclic life cycle, which means that after they are cut down the stem creates 5-6 cuttings. Within just a year, the trees will absorb great amounts of  CO2. After 6-10 years, the willow trees are cut down and repurposed.

In the new life cycle of the cuttings, they can absorb 5-6 times the amount of carbon dioxide than the mother plant. The cycle runs 4 times which is equivalent to 30-40 years before it is necessary to replant the willow tree.

The trees play a great role in absorbing CO2 from the surrounding air and converting it into oxygen, so for every tree, we plant, we are making an immediate positive difference.

The vision of Saltofte:

“An ambition of Saltofte is to double the forest area in Denmark. By securing the propagation of the forest areas we are also having a positive influence on the biodiversity in our areas here at Saltofte. This is especially important for the wildlife which exists because we can help the wild animals secure a habitat where there is peace and silence, which creates prosperity and diversity. We can therefore help ensure that wildlife and nature will have space to prosper on their own, without the influence of humans. We rely on our surrounding nature, and it is an important part of our daily lives. We have today chosen to repurpose some of our pure agricultural soil, which is rich in minerals – to secure the best conditions for our new trees.“ (Hartvig Boserup, Owner at Saltofte Gods)

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