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Significant New Research Validates the Importance of Forests as a Climate Solution

“One trillion trees” has become a global movement and a symbol of ecosystem protection and restoration. It started with a revolutionary study, co-authored by Crowther Lab, about the role of forests in combating climate change. What followed was the launch of with an audacious but simple goal: conserve, restore, and grow 1 trillion trees by 2030. 

Salesforce has been a proud supporter of the movement, co-founding with the World Economic Forum (WEF), and committing to conserve and restore 100 million trees by 2030. The company has also provided its technology to help create WEF’s UpLink digital platform that is bringing together companies of all sizes to develop climate solutions. 

New research from 200+ scientists on the potential of forests to meet climate goals

Today, the Crowther Lab research team at ETH Zürich published a new study in Nature co-authored by more than 220 scientists. The study reaffirms the importance of natural, biodiverse forests in combating climate change. It demonstrates the significant carbon drawdown potential of conserving and restoring natural forests, along with the benefits it creates for local communities, indigenous people, and biodiversity. 

Importantly, the science also highlights that natural forests are no substitute for cutting greenhouse gas emissions or phasing out fossil fuels. This is particularly important as a heating climate will limit forests’ ability to absorb carbon. 

“We need to redefine what restoration means to many people. Restoration is not about mass tree plantations to offset carbon emissions,” said Dr. Thomas Crowther, professor of Ecology at ETH Zurich. “Restoration means directing the flow of wealth towards millions of local communities, indigenous populations, farmers, and foresters that promote biodiversity across the globe. Only when healthy biodiversity is the viable choice for local communities will we get long-term carbon capture as a bi-product.”

The science is clear: trees and natural, biodiverse forests are a crucial part of reaching our global climate goals. We can’t solve the climate crisis with trees alone – but we can’t solve it without them, either.

Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations at Salesforce

“The science is clear: trees and natural, biodiverse forests are a crucial part of reaching our global climate goals. We can’t solve the climate crisis with trees alone – but we can’t solve it without them, either,” said Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations at Salesforce. 

Key findings from the study include:

1. Forests have the potential to capture 226 Gigatons (Gt) of carbon

Due to ongoing deforestation, the carbon stored in global forests is approximately 328 Gt below the natural state. Outside of urban and agricultural areas, the study highlights that forests could capture approximately 226 Gt if they were allowed to recover in regions with low human footprint. This represents 30% of the world’s carbon drawdown targets.

2. This potential can only be achieved with a healthy diversity of species. 

Biodiversity — or the variety of plants and animals in a specific area – accounts for approximately 50% of the forest’s productivity. This underscores the need to protect existing natural forests and restore degraded areas, in ways that are contextually appropriate and viable for local communities. Monoculture plantations won’t achieve the carbon capture needed and may in fact reduce carbon storage dramatically. 

3. Over half (61%) of this potential can be achieved by conserving the forests that we still have.

The good news is, if we conserve the forests we have, the majority of the potential carbon storage can be unlocked. Most of the world’s forests are highly degraded, and protecting them could allow these ecosystems to recover to maturity.

4. The remaining 39% of carbon storage potential exists outside of urban and agricultural lands, in regions where forests have been removed or fragmented.

Through sustainable ecosystem management and restoration, we can meet the remaining carbon storage potential by reconnecting fragmented forest landscapes like the Pinewoods in the Southeast and the Amazonian Basin. The study’s authors stress that this requires equitable development, driven by policies that prioritize the rights of local communities, Indigenous peoples, and farmers that promote biodiversity.

5. A continuation of business-as-usual emissions could limit forests’ ability to absorb carbon 25% by 2050.

In line with previous studies, if we do not prevent fossil fuel emissions, the capacity of forest ecosystems to capture carbon will be threatened by rising temperature, drought, and fire risks. To achieve an equitable, prosperous future for all, we must have both: rapid decarbonization and nature-based solutions.

Salesforce’s ongoing commitment to protecting and restoring the world’s forests

Together with other nature-based solutions, trees can provide a third of what is needed to limit climate change. 

Salesforce’s remains committed to protecting and restoring the world’s forest ecosystems through Today, the initiative has 90 members who have joined the movement to help conserve, restore, and grow more than 8 billion trees around the world.

Ending deforestation and restoring the world’s forests is a proven, cost-effective solution to climate change — and it can be deployed at scale right now. Conserving and restoring the world’s forests in the right way will help safeguard the future of the planet and of humanity.

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