Taking root? Tree-planting new trend in eco-conscious Davos

Thursday, 23 January 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

DAVOS, (AFP): It’s a green policy that everyone can get behind.

In Davos this year, leaders and tycoons, including the world’s leading climate sceptic Donald Trump, offered to plant trees to help the planet.

Finding common ground on global warming was no small accomplishment on the first day of this year’s World Economic Forum that was dominated by speeches by Trump and teenage climate warrior, Greta Thurnberg.

The most obvious example of the new found tree love was from Zurich Insurance, which every year hands out box-loads of blue ski bonnets to any Davos-goers foolish enough to come to the snow-cloaked fest without a hat.

But this year the insurance giant innovated, promising to plant a tree for every winter hat offered. On Tuesday afternoon in this Swiss ski resort, the meter read 5,250.

Some of the world’s most powerful CEOs take planting trees incredibly seriously.

“We are facing a planetary climate crisis and trees are one of the most effective ways to sequester carbon and stop the worst effects of climate change,” cloud giant Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff said in Davos.

A Davos regular, Benioff helps on the trillion tree campaign, a major reforestation project launched by WEF that Trump in his speech said he would back.

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng spoke of his country’s “high-value” reforestation programme and said Beijing was “willing to share its experience with other countries.” Environmentalists view corporate tree-hugging with suspicion.

“We are not telling you to ‘offset your emission’ by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate,” Thurnberg told her Davos audience.

“Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what needs to be done, and it cannot replace real mitigation or rewilding nature,” she said.

Many of the companies represented in Davos, such as the oil giants Shell and Total, long ago launched carbon offset projects through tree planting, and the scheme is also being implemented by airlines.

Some experts, however, cautioned against the use of fast-growing species such as eucalyptus or pine, which could disrupt local ecosystems.