Planting trees can't be an alibi

Nov 05, 2021 | written by:

Planting large numbers of trees is a right, timely and necessary goal. But it cannot be the only tool to be used in an effective and urgent effort against climate change. Action is also needed on the emissions front, working to reduce them. And we are the ones saying it!

An illustrious dictionary of the Italian language defines the word alibi "as an excuse, a pretext with

which one justifies faulty behaviour".
It may seem strange that an action that is universally perceived as positive (planting trees) can be
associated with the concept of alibi (and bad behaviour).
That this is said by someone who has been planting trees for a decade may seem even more
But give me the benefit of the doubt that I have not suddenly lost my mind.

Planting a tree is a seemingly simple action that takes place in a single moment, but it is only a
fragment, a frame, of a long and complex journey. Like anything else, it can be done well or badly,
with care or without, with planning or on the impulse of the moment.
And the impulse of the moment, in these days of the G20 and COP26, tells us "let's plant lots of
trees, let's save the planet".

It is such a simple and obvious concept that it can only be right, right? CO2 causes global warming,
trees absorb CO2, let's plant more trees and solve all our problems...

Unfortunately the reality is much, much more complex than that.
No serious plan against climate change, where we are today, can do without immediate and truly
significant action on reducing emissions and protecting existing forests. However, even these
actions will not enable us to reverse the climate change that is already underway, only to prevent
the situation from getting unsustainably worse and threatening our very existence.

In its latest report, the IPCC states that by 2030 a 45% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to
2010 is needed to stay on a trajectory of a 1.5 degree increase, or a 25% cut to stay on a trajectory
of a 2 degree increase.
Conversations these days about the voluntary commitments made by governments show that, at the
moment, the forecast is not only that global greenhouse gas emissions will not be reduced, but that
they will increase by 16% by 2030.

Planting trees haphazardly, without accompanying them with an overall strategic plan that includes
all levels of necessary action, is an alibi, a fig leaf, a sleight of hand that distracts from the bigger

Planting the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason, and ensuring its growth while
respecting biodiversity, ecosystems and the needs of local populations may be part of the solution.
But it remains only and exclusively part of the solution.
Because we believe that each and every one of us must make an effort to reduce our CO2
emissions, and in doing so, we can also help to absorb them by planting trees.

Because we believe that we can make this planet greener. And we want to do it the right way.

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