Why Nature-based Solutions are Essential for Fighting Climate Change

In the past year alone, Aspiration’s individual and business customers have funded the reforestation of over 35 million trees, funding on average more trees each day than there are in New York’s Central Park. The cumulative climate impact of the Aspiration community thus far is the equivalent of taking 290,687 cars off the road for a year, each year. This is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to the equivalent of 3,359 million miles driving -- and we’ve made a commitment to plant at least 125 million trees by 2030.

Some may ask: So what? In fact, it’s common to hear complaints about reforestation efforts, allegations that they are not a good use of our limited time and resources to stave off climate change. But Aspiration firmly believes otherwise. In fact, we’ve committed our business to invest in nature-based solutions because the science and economics shows tree planting is a critical component of any scenario for a sustainable future.

Within the world of carbon removal, there are engineered solutions and there are a range of natural approaches that leverage the power of trees to capture carbon from the air. Carbon capture technologies appear promising for future efforts, but they do not yet have scalable cost-effective solutions. Nature-based carbon removal solutions, on the other hand, are currently cost-effective and deliver results.

Reforestation, a carbon removal-focused nature-based solution, offers a host of benefits alongside carbon reduction. Reforestation can bolster ecosystems for local wildlife, positively benefit local water tables, and provide jobs and income to local communities.

The IPCC has made it clear that there is no credible pathway to limiting the worst effects of climate change without nature-based carbon sequestration. And the National Academy of Sciences has argued that nature-based climate change solutions, including reforestation, should contribute to at least 20% of the solutions needed between now and 2050. The same study found that the top 20 nature-based solutions could offer one-third of the cost-effective solutions to climate change. The UN estimates that ecosystem restoration could remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases. For reference, the U.S. currently emits about 6.6 gigatons per year. American forests currently store 15% of the country’s emissions.

Current and past reforestation efforts, including some individual countries' Paris climate pledges, have amounted to over 100 million hectares of land promised for reforestation. In 2020, the World Economic Forum announced the Trillion Trees Campaign for global reforestation.

As the COP26 meeting has shown us, there is increasing global consensus that climate change is a crisis we cannot talk our way out of. The question now remains how we can do everything possible to meet the moment. Supporting reforestation efforts is a crucial part of that formula, along with a variety of other nature-based solutions and commitments to decarbonize economies.