By Alexis Evripidou
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is the process of removing existing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. Many scientists and climate change experts believe even if we manage to reach net zero emissions,CDR will be required to keep warming below 2° Celsius. This can take on many forms, such as land-based CDR options which use forests, wetlands, soil, and the ocean to store carbon. Forestation, including afforestation and reforestation, is one land-based CDR strategy that is being implemented around the world. However, it is crucial to consider environmental justice and equity when implementing these projects.
Afforestation is planting trees where either trees have not existed previously within the last 50 years, whereas reforestation refers to planting trees where they have more recently been destroyed. At first glance planting trees sounds like a great idea, after all tree planting has been used as an earth-friendly activity for a long time. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered before forestation can be used as an effective CDR tool.
Reforestation can cause displacement of land use, like agricultural land, or indirectly cause deforestation in another area. Any afforestation or reforestation initiatives will have to be tailored to the local community, so it benefits local and Indigenous communities and doesn’t cause further harm by displacing or causing them to lose their access to food and livelihoods. Another issue to consider with planting forests solely for short term C02 capture is the type of trees planted. Some fast-growing species such as pine and eucalyptus might bring faster results but can lead to loss of biodiversity among other issues.
Indigenous people have been managing and living in forests for thousands of years.Their wealth of knowledge must be centered and credited in forestation practices. Forestation can also help reach other sustainability goals, and if done right can benefit local communities.. It can even help shield some communities from extreme weather events by slowing winds and providing erosion and flood control.
Local policy and scale will have major effects on whether such ventures are equitable. Each venture will need to be tailored to the specific needs of the local community and ecosystem, and if successful can result in greater benefits than just CDR. This will take a lot of research and time to execute properly as each area will have specific needs and challenges.