Return of the trees

December 19, 2017
Fred Pearce

To have a fair chance of limiting global temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, it will be necessary to remove at least 500 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. The best way to do this is to work with local communities to restore degraded forest ecosystems. As this report shows, this is entirely possible. 

It must, however, go hand in hand with halting forest loss and reducing fossil fuel consumption. Not instead of. Governments around the world have made pledges such as the Bonn Challenge to support restoration and reforestation projects, but even if the Bonn challenge is successful it would only remove 50 billion tonnes, 10 per cent of what is needed. 

researcher data carbon

More is needed and with political will, it’s certainly possible from the tropics to the boreal forests. 

In populated agricultural landscapes, there is huge potential for increasing carbon storage by reviving trees and woodlands through agroforestry. 


As our case studies show, locally managed community forests have a track record of delivering successful, pro-poor, sustainable forest restoration. Properly done, this would have the co-benefits of stemming the planet’s catastrophic loss of biodiversity, respecting customary land rights and bringing clear benefits to rural communities. Governments need to do more to support forest restoration, but it will always be true that such projects must, at one and the same time, benefit people and ecosystems as well as respect the planet’s carbon budget. 

infographic ReturnofTrees

This report also exists in German (.pdf below) or in French.

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