Opinion: To help tackle the climate crisis, we should plant more trees |  CNN

Opinion: To help tackle the climate crisis, we should plant more trees | CNN

Editor’s note: Jad Daley is president and CEO of American Forests and head of the US section of 1t.org. Marc Benioff is president and co-CEO of Salesforce. The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own. Read more reviews on CNN.

When we joined countries, companies and NGOs two years ago to launch the 1t.org global partnership, we knew it would not be a panacea against climate change. Leaders of the forest-climate movement, ourselves included, have always made it clear that the most important action we must take to combat climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

jad daley head shot

Chuck Fazio

Portrait of Marc Benioff

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In recent months, despite deadly fires, floods, heat and drought fueled by climate change, a steady stream of criticism has targeted the burgeoning global movement to use trees in response to the climate crisis.

Some critics have cautioned against claiming that planting trees is a permanent climate fix, fearing that reliance on trees could slow other climate efforts. Others worry that planting the wrong trees will lead to less resilient and less biologically diverse forests.

But we believe it would be a serious mistake to ignore or minimize the indispensable role that protecting and growing trees can play in the fight against climate change. In the United States, for example, our forests captured about 13% of gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. In addition to protecting our existing forests, there are millions of acres across the America where we can plant and grow more trees, such as reforesting burned areas and planting trees in urban areas. And we know that our efforts must result in biologically diverse forests, and only in ecosystems where trees belong. That’s why we and our partners adhere to best practices such as the “10 Golden Rules” for restoring forests.

Firefighters and volunteers fight a fire in the Amazon rainforest in Apui, southern Amazonas state, Brazil, September 21, 2022.

The private sector has a particularly important role to play here. Companies can contribute invaluable resources, skills and technologies in a responsible and science-based way, both to the forest movement and to the broader fight against the climate crisis.

Here’s how:

There must be zero tolerance for “greenwashing,” where a company could exaggerate or falsify the true climate change impact of its investment in natural climate solutions. Companies should practice transparency through rigorous public reporting and using technologies that allow stakeholders to see exactly what their investments are accomplishing. Stakeholders’ ability to see and verify climate investments can hold companies accountable and drive them to invest in truly rigorous and credible projects.

Investing in nature-based solutions like trees cannot be an excuse for companies to continue emitting dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. Companies committing to net zero should match their investments in carbon removal efforts, such as reforestation, with changes to their operations that will reduce actual emissions.

Salesforce, for example, is supporting the conservation, restoration and growth of 100 million trees by 2030, while prioritizing emissions reductions and reaching 100% renewable energy for its global operations. last year. For any remaining emissions after that, Salesforce uses carbon credits to have zero net residual emissions today. And PepsiCo is adopting more energy-efficient manufacturing processes and switching to renewable electricity, while also investing in natural climate solutions such as forest conservation and restoration.

Companies can go beyond simply paying for tree seedlings to help deliver forest climate solutions with rigor and innovation. They should look for ways to contribute from their unique areas of expertise. Tech companies, for example, can donate free products and services to help partner organizations make better use of forest and climate data. Companies should also use their direct financial contributions to help partners with fewer resources to develop and execute projects. This includes partner spending on things like designing climate-resilient plantations and training workers to implement these cutting-edge forestry approaches.

We welcome the ongoing debate on how best to achieve our climate goals. But as we move forward, let’s not dismiss climate solutions – including natural ones, like trees. This is how we can maintain the climate momentum we have worked for so many decades to build, engage more people and communities in this urgent work, and spare the world from the worst effects of climate change. This cannot just be the work of governments and environmentalists. It must be business.

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