26th blog, July 18, 2019
In 2003 we started developing the Groasis Ecological Water Saving Technology, which allows planting of trees on degraded land at 90% lower cost, with 90% less water, and with a 90% survival rate (*). After proving that the Groasis Technology worked, in 2008 we published our book The Treesolution and opened the URLs www.onetrilliontrees.com and www.onetrilliontrees.org.
In “The Treesolution” I explained that we can solve climate change with a money-making business model, based on planting one trillion productive and ecologically interesting trees on degraded land. One of the slogans on the cover of the book is: ‘Learn how to create wealth from CO₂’.
A sudden shift
In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted by 196 state parties at COP21. However, on 8 October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made an emergency call to reduce CO₂ emissions by at least 50% by 2030 – since fossil-fuel emissions in 2018 increased at the fastest rate for seven years, rather than decreasing. It was obvious that existing policies were not sufficient. This realisation shocked the world, and people are starting to open up to other solutions.
Two policies: CO₂ reduction or CO₂ offsetting?
There are countries – e.g. the Netherlands – who think they can only avoid climate change through a ‘reduction of emissions’ policy. However, this is the most expensive way to solve climate change, since the cost per ton of avoided CO₂ emissions reaches incredibly high amounts – and the effectiveness and feasibility are questionable given population growth and an increased desire for higher living standards.
For example: in the Netherlands electric cars are subsidized and each avoided ton of CO₂ costs the government (and the population!) two thousand Euros. To compare: The Treesolution with the Groasis Ecological Water Saving Technology – based on disconnecting the CO₂ molecules with photosynthesis – costs less than 5 Euros per ton of CO₂. So, for the same amount of money that the Netherlands spends to avoid 1 ton of CO₂ emissions, other countries or companies can offset 400 times more CO₂, by planting productive trees(!!). Neutralizing CO₂ emissions with trees will create a competitive advantage, so I expect tree planting will become the preferred climate change prevention solution.
Countries who chose for a ‘reduction policy’ will soon lose their competitive advantage and outprice themselves in the global market. Energy intensive industries will have to leave from countries who chose for a ‘CO₂ reduction policy’ to countries who chose for a ‘CO₂ neutralizing policy’ – a development that is already happening in Europe.
The Treesolution is adopted by countries
Countries start to see agroforestry as an efficient opportunity to neutralize their CO₂ emissions, and can commit to their Paris COP21 pledge. Several countries have chosen agroforestry as a permitted solution for obtaining carbon credits. A few months ago the European Union published the following press release:
Technologies for removing CO₂ (note they use the word ‘removing’, no longer the word ‘reduction’) from the atmosphere must be integrated into climate policy by 2019, say national science academies across the EU EASAC - Scientific advice for the well-being of Europe.
Climate models suggest that an early application of NETs (Negative Emission Technologies (note: such as the Treesolution) in parallel with mitigation offers a greater chance to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement (Paris COP21) and to prevent catastrophic consequences for the environment and society, then later on in this century to apply on a larger scale to the NET.
The EU and national governments should identify a European research, development and demonstration program for NETs that is in line with their own skills and industrial base.
Reducing deforestation, reforestation, increasing the carbon content in the soil and improving wetlands remain the most cost-effective and viable approaches to CDR, and should now be implemented as low-cost solutions that are relevant to both developed and developing countries.
Australia is also embracing the Treesolution. The Australian government launched a 2-billion-dollar fund in which vegetation management is accepted as a method to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere. Norway has signed an agreement with Indonesia to plant trees at its cost in Indonesia to reduce the CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere, and reduce Norway’s net carbon footprint. Many other countries have announced tree planting programs. India announced a plan to plant 2 billion trees. Ethiopia recently launched and started a forest recovery plan by planting 4 billion trees. China has announced that it will increase the tree cover of its country to 23%, and planted an area the size of Ireland in 2018. Ireland itself is also planting a few thousand hectares of trees each year. The Treesolution is now happening everywhere, finally!
Companies also adopt the Treesolution
Shell was the first oil company to announce they will neutralize their CO₂ emissions with trees. ENI soon followed, and announced that they will plant more than eight million hectares of trees to neutralize their CO₂ emissions. Then Total announced that they will spend USD 100M per year on reforestation to offset their emissions. This makes them the third oil company using the Treesolution.
Since CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage – a technology to remove CO₂ from combustion gasses) costs approximately 90 to 150 Euros per ton of abated CO₂, it makes sense that as soon as the first companies start to use trees (which cost 5 Euros per ton of offset CO₂), other companies must follow to remain competitive.
I expect that within 5 years the whole energy industry will use trees to offset their CO₂ emissions, and that governments will allow carbon credits from tree planting.
Science confirms that the Treesolution is the right way forward
Scientists now start to publish that a trillion trees should be planted, the number that we recommended in 2008 in our book “The Treesolution”. Dr. Thomas Crowther says that scientists 'underestimated the potential of trees to combat climate change on a huge scale'. He also says that 'if we plant a trillion of extra trees, this would surpass any other method for tackling climate change - from building wind turbines to vegetarian diets'. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Edinburgh say that the 'global climate targets will be missed if deforestation continues on this scale'. Back in 2016, two Dutch scientists reviewed the claims made in our book and published their own paper, supporting the claims. Here are some other interesting publications from scientists: publication 1 // publication 2 // publication 3 .
Organisations and the Treesolution
The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) is a political declaration by governments, companies, indigenous peoples and civil society to halve the loss of natural forests by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030. Its ten goals include restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), with over 200 corporate members, has pledged its support for reaching the targets as agreed in the Bonn Challenge. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030, meaning 20 million hectares of degraded land will need to be restored each year between 2020 and 2030.
Climate change is not an isolated problem
Most climate experts treat climate change as a stand-alone problem. For this reason, countries like the Netherlands believe in a ‘CO₂ reduction’ policy. However, I believe that climate change is an integrated problem of what I call 'The 7 Challenges for Humanity':
- Food shortage
- Climate change
- Rural-urban migration
- Falling groundwater levels
These '7 Challenges for Humanity' are all inextricably linked. The way most climate experts want to combat climate change – except for those who consider using trees as a solution – focuses on solving only one of the 7 Challenges: climate change. However, their proposals do not solve the other 6. A windmill, CCS, or a CO₂ levy do not help solve erosion, poverty, food shortage, unemployment, rural-urban emigration or declining groundwater levels.
The Treesolution addresses all the 7 Challenges that humanity is facing. Productive trees produce food and create employment, so they combat poverty and create wealth. Productive and ecologically interesting trees restore soil fertility, enhance bio-diversity and underground water levels. Once people find that they can create wealth in their own region or country, it will take away the need to migrate. Aside of these advantages, like a cherry on the cake, trees remove CO₂ from the air. Trees are a money-making opportunity to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere. Instead of increasing taxes to combat climate change through a ‘CO₂ reduction policy’, we can reduce taxes while combatting climate change by planting trees on degraded land, and create wealth.
Low cost solution
The main part of the cost price for CO₂ offsetting with trees is the cost of land. Fertile land -where trees can be planted without irrigation - is expensive. There is also another problem with fertile land: land-grabbing. Countries or corporations need huge areas to neutralize their emissions. Scientists estimate the required surface at approximately 2 billion hectares. If these countries or corporations use fertile land to plant trees, then local populations will protest as they rely on this land to grow their food and generate an income. They cannot, and will not, accept a new form of imperialism which colonizes their land in order to solve the climate problem of the wealthy few.
With the Groasis Ecological Water Saving Technology we can use huge areas of currently infertile, dry, degraded and eroded land that is very cheap or even available for free, often not inhabited, at very low cost. This ensures that the cost price of CO₂ offsets will drop to less than 5 Euros per ton, and that no land-grabbing takes place.
During the last 50 years, the world has used outsourcing as a main driver to create wealth. Production has moved to those places where costs were lowest. Why should we not solve climate change – and the other 6 aforementioned Challenges – through outsourcing? Why would we spend two thousand Euros per avoided ton of CO₂ to subsidize a car, if we can create wealth by outsourcing the planting of productive trees in those areas where people are in urgent need of a fertile soil, water, employment and food - and remove 400 tons of CO₂ instead of 1 ton of CO₂ by spending the same amount of money?
If climate change really worries us, then we should remove as much CO₂ from the atmosphere within the shortest period of time, at an optimised cost. The best solution to do that, is the Treesolution.
I am so happy that it starts happening now!
* As demonstrated in more than 40 countries around the world, reports can be downloaded here