By Dr. Victoria Meyer and Lyndon Lee
Natural climate solutions (NCS) offer one of our most valuable tools for tackling climate change. Researchers estimate that NCS alone could contribute close to 40% of the CO2 mitigation we need to achieve by 2030 in order to limit warming. Reforestation is a key part of this solution; it could represent up to one-third of all climate mitigation from NCS (Exhibit 1, cost-effective scenario).1
Scientific and economic research show that forests are the most proven, cost-efficient, and scalable way to sequester carbon — and that it’s possible to plant forests without diminishing lands used for human habitat and agriculture. 1T.org2 and other private sector–led organizations have responded to the challenge, garnering support for global forest restoration, raising funds, and planting trees in the process.
Despite this growing momentum, and increasing pledges from countries to allocate land for reforestation, we face a major problem. Almost half of the 292 million hectares committed for restoration under the Bonn Challenge and related initiatives rely on unsustainable monoculture plantations. These plantations harm rather than enhance the environment3,4 and provide less diverse benefits for local people and economies.
To ensure forests sustainably and permanently capture carbon, planting initiatives need to shift toward native forest restoration. It is by far the best practice, not only in terms of carbon sequestration, but also biodiversity, ecosystem services, risk mitigation, and livelihood improvement. In order to spur this kind of restoration, we need to develop tools that allow carbon markets to recognize the value of biodiverse native forests.