SavePlanetEarth (SPE) traveled to Pakistan to lay the groundwork of planting a whopping 1 billion trees in designated areas throughout the country. Under this banner, it will also be entering a collaboration with WWF-Pakistan to embark on the country’s restoration and conservation of the Himalayan Yew – a species of native conifer best-regarded for its medicinal and ethnobotanical significance. Additionally, SPE will be overseeing the establishment of green nurseries throughout the country (with the largest being about 25-35 acres), with similar nurseries set to be established in the Maldives and Sri Lanka. These nurseries play a vital role in boosting carbon sequestration initiatives, setting themselves up as a base for providing plants (saplings and seeds) when and where necessary, as well as encouraging human participation through training and job applications.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is also conducting a tree-planting project of its own. Known as the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, the initiative is spearheaded by the Ministry of Climate Change and is considered as a successor to a series of similar projects carried out in the country since 2014.
This all started with Pakistan taking inspiration from the Bonn Challenge, a global environmental restoration project initiated in September 2011, by Germany and the International Union for Conservative Nature (IUCN). Materializing on the heels of the Earth Summit (1992), the challenge aimed for the restoration of 150 million hectares of the world’s degraded and deforested lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. According to organizers, the restoration process – if achieved throughout the designated period until 2020 – “could result in the sequestration of 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, reducing the emission gap by 20%”.
Pakistan was among a handful of nations that proceeded aboard their own landscape restoration programs, though it is noteworthy that Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa became the first to not only drive their pledge forward but also to upgrade it to the massive success it has become today.
The advent of the Billion Tree Tsunami project in 2014 aimed to restore 350,000 hectares of forests and degraded land – to excel from the Bonn Challenge’s accomplishment. Headed by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this nation-wide project saw the immense participation of communities and stakeholders, ultimately leading to its earlier-than-anticipated completion in 2017.
Just one year later, Prime Minister Imran Khan – who also led the Billion Tree Tsunami – revamped the project to the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami (also known as the Plant4Pakistan) initiative we see now, which aims to plant 10 billion trees across the country within 5 years. This campaign wasn’t limited to just planting trees though; the country is also shifting to green energy and transportation practices while also strengthening its diplomatic relations with other countries that share similar ideals. Like the establishment of green nurseries, this massive undertaking also generated job openings and boosted the economy and workforce. Despite the project’s rough navigation through the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Climate Change reported that “a total of 1 billion plantation target is achieved for 30th June 2021.” You can find more details of their progress via their official website http://tbttp.gov.pk/.
Pakistan’s robust stance against climate change is weighed by the fact that it ranks 8th among the countries most affected by its effects between 1999 and 2019, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021. Given its vulnerability to the worsening monsoons – ranging from severe heatwaves to flooding caused by the wet season, the country also is in danger of losing valuable natural resources – from water shortages due to the melting of the Himalayan glaciers to the potential eradication of forest life due to its high annual deforestation rate.
Pakistan also stood out for not having a definite net-zero emissions goal, albeit for logical reasons. In an interview with The Third Pole during the COP26 summit in Glasglow, the Prime Minister’s Climate Advisor Malik Amin Aslam said, “In Pakistan, we don’t believe in the net-zero concept at the moment. We believe in the concept of a decisive decade in the next 10 years. If the world does not change in the next 10 years, then we’ll be too late for any net zeros in 2050, 2060, or 2070. I believe that net-zero if it translates into concrete action in the next decade is good, but most of these announcements are just announcements.” It may seem like a dismal take – especially when time is of the essence when it comes to curbing climate change, but perhaps this statement alluded to “needing a steady hand in times of crisis”, and that going all-in without a proper road map to guide the process would lead to a less-desirable outcome.
Regardless of their stance on capping emissions, Pakistan is – and still remains – at the forefront of a major carbon sequestration initiative via the necessity of trees. As SPE has emphasized before, trees have always been the key player in helping secure a future for all life on the planet. What sounds as simple as planting can truly be a paramount undertaking to a cause that would support our world throughout the years ahead of us.