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Plant trees: Telefónica’s commitment after joining 1t.org

Plant trees: Telefónica’s commitment after joining 1t.org

«If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.«. This phrase is from Martin Luther King, who was a minister and activist for civil rights. Decades ago he transmitted a truth that today remains more important than ever.

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat that we face if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the heavy reliance on fossil fuels. The consequences of this phenomenon is an increasingly visible reality. A few weeks ago, eleven people lost their lives in the Italian Alps, specifically in the Dolomites due to the collapse of the Marmolada glacier.

Even though, it is no longer possible to put an end to climate change; we still have time to limit the progress of this problem, whose consequences are devastating. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the UN, specifically SDGs 8, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, have as their main objective the restoration and conservation of the terrestrial and marine ecosystem.

In this scenario, 1t.org arises, an initiative promoted by the World Economic Forum that seeks restore, conserve and plant one billion trees worldwide by 2030. Telefónica is the first telecommunications operator to join this movement, which has the support of 34 companies around the world. Thus, the company has committed itself to planting and conserving forest ecosystems and improving the state of biodiversity with the planting 1.5 billion trees by 2030. This initiative involves avoiding and absorbing 700,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere throughout this decade. All this, following the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB).

Forests: an essential part of the environment

According to data from June 2022, CO2 emissions in Spain increased by 5.9% in 2021 and by 14% only so far in 2022. The planting of trees, as well as the conservation of existing ones, is essential for the environment. Due to the excess carbon dioxide, the atmosphere traps an increasing amount of heat from the sun. This causes the Earth’s temperature to rise. Forests and trees play a vital role here as they absorb that CO2. Scientists estimate that forests, from living trees, dead wood, litter and soil, contain about 50% of the CO2 in the atmosphere.

That is, the greater the number of trees on the planet, the greater the carbon dioxide absorbed by them that does not rise into the atmosphere. In fact, when forests are destroyed, CO2 is released. And, unfortunately, deforestation accounts for more than 20% of the carbon dioxide that people generate.

As Elena Valderrabano, Global Director of Sustainability at Telefónica, mentions, «trees absorb air pollutants, contribute to enhancing biodiversity, help generate employment and promote sustainable livelihoods through forest products and activities such as conservation and restoration«. From Telefónica they have committed to achieving zero net emissions in 2040 throughout the value chain. To achieve this, they have committed to reducing emissions by 90% and neutralizing residual emissions through the purchase of carbon credits for CO2 absorption. This last point is where joining 1t.org fits in.

Main benefits of planting trees

As we have been explaining, trees constitute a vital part for the life of living beings and for the reduction of carbon dioxide. These not only generate oxygen, purify the air or keep rivers clean, they also serve as a refuge for fauna, reduce soil temperature and regenerate soil nutrients.

when we plant a tree we are sowing the seed to create a better life for current and future generations. Below, we delve into some of the main advantages of planting trees:

  1. produce oxygen. A mature tree can release enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe.
  2. They clean the air. Trees absorb odors and polluting gases, acting as a filter for polluting particles in the air and trapping them in their bark and leaves.
  3. refresh the environment. Climate change is increasing the temperature of the environment. Trees can cool a city by up to 10ºC, offering us shade and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.
  4. They create employment. Thousands of people live near forests, depending on the trees to generate their income. Approximately 10 million people worldwide work in forestry related jobs.
  5. Help maintain good mental health. According to recent studies, playing outdoors, living surrounded by trees or being able to see them at work demonstrates greater concentration and productivity and less mental fatigue.
  6. They are a refuge for animals and plants. Experts point out that if deforestation does not stop, millions of plants and special animals will become extinct by 2050.

The need to maintain and care for trees and, therefore, forests is an essential part of life. However, most industrial countries have cut down their main forests. Although in Europe, thanks to planting and regeneration they are expanding. Fires are also major culprits in their disappearance. One of the most relevant cases is that of Amazon which lost in 2020 about 2.3 million hectares. And without going any further, last June, the Sierra de la Culebra (Zamora, Spain) lost 25,216 hectares.

All of this is cause for concern, since devastated vegetation can take between 5 and 100 years to recover.

Telefónica initiatives for the expansion of trees

Based on all of this and focusing on the complex and worrying situation that is developing around the environment, Telefónica has committed to neutralizing emissions from the National Inventory of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that it is not able to reduce. For the company, initiatives that focus on caring for nature will be a priority.

In 2020, it launched the Forest of Telefónica in Palencia (Spain), which has 12,500 trees of native species in more than 22 hectares. This initiative has made it possible to recover a degraded agricultural area and has generated employment. Thanks to all this, the company has received the “calculate reduce compensate” seal from the Spanish Office for Climate Change.

These types of actions are not only carried out in Spain, but also in other countries where Telefónica operates, such as Germany, where the company neutralized 20% of scope 1 and 2 emissions through the CO2OL Tropical Mix project. The purpose of the project was to restore land used by extensive cattle ranching to convert it into mixed forests with the planting of 20 different species of trees and the protection of another 30. While in Hispam they carry out the initiative, «a mobile, a tree “, where for every device customers return, a tree is planted. Thanks to this action, in 2021 7.5 hectares were reforested in the Nevado de Toluca National Reserve (Mexico).

Without a doubt, every grain of sand adds up to achieve change. Stopping the consequences of climate change is possible if each one of us does our part. From smaller gestures, like recycling, to larger gestures like planting 1.5 billion trees.