The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our society. We are increasingly aware of the importance of caring for the environment and although we can all contribute our grain of sand, extra help is needed to reduce the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere. There are solutions that can help reduce these emissions, such as the use of technologies capable of capturing the CO2 emitted, as well as new ways of generating and consuming energy. But a natural alternative, which is gaining more and more repercussion, is reforestation: replanting trees in a territory that had previously been a forest or that lost a large volume of vegetation in the past. Forests have the ability to absorb CO2 by acting as natural carbon sinks.
Seeding the planet with oxygen
According to the third National Forest Inventory, in Spain there are more than 9 million hectares of deforested forest area and an important semi-abandoned agricultural area that could be changed to forest use. This means that our country has great potential to create natural carbon sinks capable of offsetting CO2 emissions in order to decarbonize the planet. Reforestation is an important tool for the production of oxygen necessary for life, which is why large areas of forests are known as “lungs of the earth”. By planting trees we will sow oxygen for the planet. In addition, they are a natural climate solution: each tree captures carbon dioxide as it grows thanks to photosynthesis: the more it grows, the more capacity it has to absorb and, consequently, the more CO2 it withdraws from the atmosphere. The environmental impact of a new forest can be measured 40 years after its plantation and it is estimated that, in Spain, each hectare will absorb an average of about 200 tons of CO2 in that period. In our country there are already companies that are dedicated to reforestation as a tool for offsetting emissions. “We started by planting dozens of hectares, now we are recovering hundreds and next year we will be working on thousands,” explains Enrique Enciso, co-founder of Sylvestris, a company in which Fundación Repsol specializes in reforestation of forests and rural development.
Triple impact projects
“The commitment to reforestation has a huge impact, especially in emptied Spain. Investing in forests that capture CO2 is going to be a great opportunity for rural areas ”, highlights Francisco Martínez, co-founder of Sylvestris. In this context, Motor Verde was born, a pioneering initiative launched by Fundación Repsol with the aim of promoting the compensation of emissions through large-scale reforestation. The impact is triple, since it not only generates an environmental benefit: it also has benefits for society, since it is a tool to generate quality and inclusive local employment, giving priority to people who are in a disadvantaged situation or at risk of exclusion. Likewise, it is an engine for the rural economy, betting on a green and sustainable business, with great prospects for the future.
In Spain there are 26 million hectares of forest and of these, 17 million are forested. In the remaining nine, it is where reforestation initiatives can be carried out
Furthermore, Fundación Repsol, together with Sylvestris experts, has promoted other reforestation projects in Spain, creating new forests as carbon sinks. “One of the most important projects we have worked on in 2020 has been in Teruel, in the municipality of Ejulve, where we have hired people from the area, most of them in a vulnerable situation,” recalls Enrique Enciso. In addition to Teruel, reforestation projects have been promoted in the surroundings of places such as Cartagena, Tarragona and Muskiz. In Cartagena, for example, 17 hectares of land have been reforested in La Atalaya, an emblematic enclave of the city for its past and for being one of the most popular mountains for the people of Cartagena for sports.
For its part, in Tarragona, where the Ermita del Remei de Flix estate was affected by the 2019 fire in the Ribera del Ebro, more than 5,000 trees have been planted on 10.5 hectares (which will absorb a total of 641 tons of CO2 in the next 50 years), or in the area of Las Pozas in Muskiz where a 7-hectare plot of land has been reforested. There are also other reforestation projects underway in Galicia and Castilla La Mancha. Local workers, who were in a vulnerable situation, have been hired for all these initiatives. The change in awareness and commitment to the environment are making reforestation one of the most hopeful proposals in the fight against climate change, as well as being a natural solution, with benefits for society and profitable, so that future generations inherit a more sustainable planet.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.