How much do we need? Defining the true cost of restoration in the 21st century

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Lauren Oakes

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In the past year, tree planting organisations have doubled or even tripled their number of trees planted around the globe. Marketing plans for $1/tree donations continue to attract individuals inspired by the chance to help. Corporate interest is also growing fast, along with the number of organizations engaged in implementation, policy, and tracking outcomes. Positive action for the climate and biodiversity is welcomed, as is the increasing investments in reforestation for a suite of benefits, such as carbon sequestration. However, focusing on straightforward tree counts as a metric of success ignores other risks: displacing people, negatively impacting livelihoods with the loss of agricultural lands, and trading biodiversity for carbon gains with plantations. How then, do we begin to calculate the investment needed to ‘restore’ ecosystems, rather than simply ‘planting’ a tree? What standards should guide project design, implementation, and monitoring to ensure the social and ecological outcomes expected over time? As the U.N. Decade of Ecosystem Restoration launches forward in January 2021, organisations across the world will continue scaling up planting efforts to meet the ambitious targets. Some initiatives will be driven primarily by carbon interests, potentially overlooking negative trade-offs. Others will target multiple benefits, committing to improving local livelihoods, health, and biodiversity, while also supporting the climate system. The trick, undoubtedly, will be in designing for quality – both social and ecological – while not being cost prohibitive or delaying much-needed action.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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