Best global tree planting initiatives

global tree planting

Tree planting initiatives have become widespread as a partial solution for climate change. Furthermore, the best global tree planting initiatives help mitigate climate change through absorbing carbon dioxide1. Moreover, tree planting can combat desertification. Thus, increasing food security and fertility of the soil by holding nutrients and regulating the water cycle. The many benefits of trees are found in the first example below. 

Global tree planting with the Bonn Challenge

This international project stresses national benefits as well as global carbon control. Firstly, the Bonn Challenge launched in 2011 with two goals; to get 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land pledged for forest restoration by 2020. Subsequently rising to 350 million total hectares by 2030.2 The first target was passed in 2017.3 The Barometer recording allows countries to assess their progress which enables them to stay on track and deliver on promises, even through political changes.

The Barometer assesses initiatives at a national and subnational level. These efforts are related through regional initiatives such as AFR100 which aims to restore 100 million hectares of land by 2030 across Africa.4 They use diverse methods to reforest such as mosaic restoration in North Cameroon where many people live.5 Due to planting trees in fields and grazing areas land is less degraded because runoff of sudden rainfall flowing from the hills is limited. This also shields the houses lying beneath because trees are able to stabilise land and regulate water, providing other benefits for people.

Another benefit trees provide is to sustain food supply. The regional initiative 20×20 uses agroforestry for the Bonn Challenge. Focused on Latin America and the Caribbean they aim to bring 20 million hectares of land into restoration by 2020.6 Placing trees alongside agriculture products in agroforestry creates significantly better yields. Therefore, lowering the negative impact of weather events such as droughts on crops. The Bonn Challenge works through regional initiatives such as AFR100 and 20×20 and is led by country pledges to limit climate change. It is economically effective, with more benefits than costs for reforestation7. It also aims to improve soil quality of the land,8 which is a crucial aim of the next initiative.

Ecosia planting trees in the desert

Ecosia is a search engine that uses profits from ads to fund charities planting trees around the world. They invest 80% of their profits into tree planting initiatives. Moreover, Ecosia claim that every search with them removes 1kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.9 They send their funds to small local partners using trees to improve the land locally, and chiefly absorb global carbon dioxide.

An example of a great global tree planting initiative is in North Burkino Faso where a variety of native trees, for instance acacia, are planted just South of the Sahel desert bringing jobs and better farming harvests.10 This prevents desertification by trapping sediments and nutrients thus increasing the soil quality. Another method used by Ecosia partners is Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in Tanzania.11 This is using existing trees to create regrowth, with local farmers.12 Ecosia works in areas with high biodiversity potential to boost the positive effect of each tree on the soil, so more plants can grow. Planting native species like this is vital so they will thrive in the local environment with other plants. Yet, the best species and locations for absorbing carbon are still unknown so the global impact of projects like this is not certain.

The Plant a Billion Trees initiative

Another project that plants native trees in strategic sites is Plant a Billion Trees. This initiative from 2008, run by the Nature Conservancy, targets degraded areas of large forests in a few countries: Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and forests in Mexico, the United States and China.13 As a result of aiming at areas of already existing forests that have been degraded they are able to restore the native forest ecosystem. Thus steadying the local climate, and cutting the fire risk. Although this project is fixed on counting trees, it is also based in a handful of specific sites. Whereas, the next example is not fenced by a small number of sites.

The Trillion Trees global planting campaign

The Trillion Trees campaign is named akin to that above but differs in other aspects. This is a joint project with BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society, and WWF. Unlike the other initiatives discussed thus far, here the goal is about sharing knowledge and linking finance to projects planting trees on the ground. They use a trifold approach of halting deforestation, improving forest protection and advancing restoration. Therefore, limiting the impact of greenhouse gas emissions by restoring forests to absorb carbon dioxide. There are only 3 trillion of the once 6 trillion trees on Earth so counting trees promotes thinking of trees in cities, as well as forests.14

Additionally, a group planting trees in urban places is Trees for Cities. They planted their millionth tree last year, working since 1993.15 They work globally too and focus on urban areas, for instance planting to shield schools from air pollution and smart planting that reduces the number of extreme floods. Also, they plant tree nurseries in Rwanda, where children learn to care for the trees and sell fruits and seedlings through cooperatives. This group targets cities which are vital to consider as well as the carbon stocks of forests and rural trees.

To sum up, the best global tree planting initiatives above have huge pledges and effective local solutions. Planting trees is an integral part of mitigating climate change which is economically effective. Benefits also include limiting greenhouse gas emissions, capturing carbon and stabilising soil. Trees have a positive effect on the global environment through potentially absorbing 25% of atmospheric carbon dioxide 16 and also for local people who benefit from trees improving degraded land and reducing desertification. In addition to all the positive effects of trees, people also need to be aware that planting trees is not the only solution to global warming. Trees need time to grow and then absorb carbon. It is therefore more important to protect existing forests and nature than to plant new ones. 


  1. Woodland Trust. Climate Change The Woodland Trust’s view. Published May 2019.
  2. Dave, R., Saint-Laurent, C., Murray, L., et al.. Second Bonn Challenge progress report. Application of the Barometer in 2018. IUCN; 2019
  3. Swati. Bonn Challenge crosses the 150 million hectare milestone with pledges from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Sri Lanka. Bonn Challenge. Published 10 May 2017. Accessed 29 April 2020. https://www.bonnchalleng
  4.  AFR100 Secretariat. Four Lessons from the Fourth Annual AFR100 Partnership Meeting. African Union Development Agency-NEPAD. Published 30 October, 2019.
  5. Ngoumtsa A, Makueti J, Schuppener. Cameroonian smallholder famers get involved with forest landscape restoration. African Union Development Agency-NEPAD. Published 9 January, 2020. Accessed 27 May, 2020.
  6. International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Bonn Challenge: Catalysing Leadership in Latin America. Forest Brief Number 14. Published February 2017
  7. Michael V, Siedl A. Time, space, place, and the Bonn Challenge global forest restoration target. Restoration Ecology. 2017;25(6):903-911.
  8. Lewis S, Wheeler C, Mitchard E, Koch A. Restoring natural forests is the best way to remove atmospheric carbon. Nature. 2019;568:25-28. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01026-8
  9. Joshi. Ecosia vs. Google: Which is the best search engine? Ecosia. Published 19 March, 2019. Accessed 27 April 2020.
  10. Ecosia. Burkino Faso. Published 16 October, 2019. Accessed 27 April 2020.
  11. Pieter. Tree-Planting Update: Episode 23. Ecosia. Published 6 March, 2020. Accessed 26 April, 2020.
  12. Rinaudo T, Muller A, Morris M. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) Manual. World Vision Australia. Published January 2019. Accessed 26 April, 2020.
  13. Nature Conservancy. Plant a Billion Trees: How it works. Accessed 26 April, 2020.
  14. Trillion Trees. Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 27 April, 2020.
  15. Trees for Cities. Urban Trees. Accessed 26 April, 2020.
  16. Bastin, J-F, et al,. The global tree restoration potential. Published in Science, 5th June 2019, Volume 365, Issue 6448, pages 76-79