The President’s and Republicans’ Climate Plans Are All About Trees

Muir Woods National Monument Photo: Monica Medina

Yesterday, President Trump announced at Davos that the U.S. will join the “Trillion Tree Initiative” that is being promoted there as a way for world leaders to commit to combatting climate change.  The President said yesterday that, “We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world,” and that the U.S. “will continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests.”   Republican members of the House are planning climate legislation of their own and gave Axios a “sneak peek” at it and it too is focused on carbon capture through planting trees.

Why This Matters:  Channeling our inner Lorax here – the Republicans MAY have brought the President along on planting trees — but it would be really great if they could get him to stop cutting them down.  The President’s plan to log in pristine wilderness areas like the Tongass National Forest, and to decide to so without an environmental review that considers the climate impacts, belies his real views about nature’s majesty — he could care less.  We are literally losing the forest in exchange for some baby trees.  Just last August, the President instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to lift 20-year-old prohibitions on logging in Alaska’s 16.7-million-acre Tongass National Forest.  We believe in nature-based solutions as much as anyone and are big fans of the UN’s Decade of Restoration of which the Trillion Trees Initiative is a part, but Trump’s “commitment” is no substitute for a more comprehensive approach to climate action.  Indeed, it’s a joke and a head fake when you look at the Trump Administration policy of opening up logging on federal lands.

Trillion Trees Initiative

According to its web site, the “Trillion Trees Initiative” is “a collaboration between three of the world’s largest conservation organizations, founded on a vision of a world where tree cover is expanding not shrinking. By working together, we are leveraging our large networks and decades of experience towards a common goal. To close the gap between aspirational commitments and the reality on the ground, our dedicated team develops ideas into opportunities and connects them to funders. Our ventures are protecting and restoring forests for the benefit of people, wildlife and a stable climate, and inspiring sectoral change.” Earlier this week, Vox’s Recode newsletter reported that Mark Benioff announced at Davos that he and his wife would provide the financial backing for a new platform, 1t.org.

Decade of Restoration

Last March, the UN General Assembly declared that 2021-30 is the Decade of Restoration, in which it hopes to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as a way to combat the climate crisis and improve food security and water supply, and support biodiversity.  The Decade will focus on increasing ongoing efforts such as the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded ecosystems by 2030. According to the UN, the restoration of “350 million hectares of degraded land between now and 2030 could generate USD 9 trillion in ecosystem services and take an additional 13-26 gigatons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.”

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