Reforestation: Homemade Technology by Nature

Dear reader,
ironically, I am sitting under the unique beautiful tree in Lancaster library while researching natural climate solutions. However, many small steps can lead to something big and I absolutely appreciate the idea of putting nature into a learning zone and to make us aware to the focus we should have. To grow, stay green and make the world a little better. Like this tree that improves the air quality for hundreds of students every day.

I heard about reforestation as a short-term climate change solution the first time at WBCSD and was thrilled by the obvious idea that has not yet reached business. That is surprising considering how dependent all businesses are on ecosystems and the resources they provide.[1] I think most of us often forget how powerful and innovative the already existing outside world is. We associate technology as innovative and forward bringing. The most successful companies strive forward to invent technologies that will hopefully increase efficiency while reducing emissions.[2]

While the world’s economy focuses on minimizing carbon emissions, there is another simple and necessary approach that could build the bridge to a non-carbon-future: maximizing nature’s climate solutions.[3] They address climate change by reducing and storing emissions related to changes in land use. Furthermore, they improve the resilience of ecosystems.[4] The “sleeping giant in solving climate change” provides cost-efficient and nature-based solutions.[3] Tech-solutions to reduce carbon emissions cannot keep up with natural solutions that cost less than 10-20USD per carbon tonne.[2][3] Natural climate solutions can provide at least 20-30% [2][4]  of necessary emission reduction to achieve the 2-degree-limit. The opportunities seem immense.

One concrete approach is reforestation. It involves replanting native to degraded land areas.[5] Did you know, that in one year an acre of trees can absorb the amount of CO2 produced from your last road trip equalling the length of the equator?[6] Side effects are furthermore fertile soils (trees are slowing down runoff and stabilize the soil), flood control due to resilient ecosystems and safer business and thus job opportunities.[4][6] “Reforestation is the single largest nature-based climate mitigation opportunity we have”, the Nature Conservancy emphasises on their website.[4]

Volkswagen México faced an interesting business case in their Automotive production in Puebla. It illustrates several consequences deforestation and reforestation may have. The company was dependent on the ecosystem on the volcanic slopes. It led to groundwater replenishment but it kept running off due to ongoing deforestation (due to fires, illegal logging etc) and endangered nearby communities and the stability of production. From 2008 until 2013 Volkswagen planted 490,000 trees which now led to more water availability than Volkswagen consumes every year. The company successfully secured their business interests while improving living conditions for the native fauna and communities.[7]

An important aspect to mention about reforestation and natural climate solutions is that “no single option is sufficient by itself”.[8] Climate change can and should be addressed by several adaptation and mitigation options but that does not excuse further production of emissions. Natural offsetting is a short-term solution to realize our 2-degree-limit and a great chance to enable sustainable growth but can only be part of the solution.

Nina Marleen


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