Sequestration and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a combination of indispensable actions that must be carried out simultaneously.
At the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a global issue that is expected to gradually improve as scientific knowledge of the virus advances and as drugs and a vaccine are developed. However, the pandemic cannot be expected to reverse the inexorable progression of climate change. Before COVID-19, there was a steady increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and impacts. So, climate change has been linked to the deadly bush fires in Australia, bleaching coral reefs, rising sea levels and increasingly cataclysmic storms.
Thus, annual global GHG emissions have increased by 41% since 1990, and they continue to rise. Whilst GHG emissions had declined slightly by 2016, recent data suggest that they have increased every year since then. This is also true for the year 2019.
A report published in January by the Bank for International Settlements in Bâle argued that climate change could cause the next financial crisis while emphasizing that central bankers lacked the tools to deal with what could be one of the greatest economic disturbances of all time. The report also noted that climate change could be the dominant issue for central banks in the coming decade.
Furthermore, from Microsoft to JetBlue to Shell, a growing number of companies are seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in forest protection and reforestation. This new corporate enthusiasm for trees could create strong advocates for programmes such as the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative. However, if companies are serious about reducing emissions from global warming by protecting and planting trees, the future of carbon offsetting through forestry will have to be very different from the past.
At the end of Davos, the World Economic Forum, which last January recognized climate change as a major risk, launched a global initiative to cultivate, restore and conserve a trillion trees around the world – with the aim of restoring biodiversity and combating climate change. The project 1t.org intends to unite governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses and individuals in “large-scale restoration of nature”. Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said: “The next decade must see unprecedented levels of collaboration if we want to achieve global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals. 1t.org is a meaningful example that demonstrates how stakeholders from all backgrounds and ages can work together to achieve a single goal of worldwide importance.” 
According to the March 2020 publication of the international organism Ecosystem Market Place, the emphasis placed by the media on tree planting explains the current preference of buyers for deforestation/reforestation projects over other types of forest and land-use projects. This increase is due to a growing awareness of “nature-based solutions” for climate resilience, which has led to an increase of 264% since 2015 in the volume of offsets generated by forestry and land-use activities and has made Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) the most popular type of offset for the first time since that year.
The sequestration of GHG emissions is essential, but also has its limits
While it is important to highlight this global keen interest at the dawn of the 2020 decade for « natural climate solutions » and « nature-based solutions », one must also see their limits. Beyond the mediatized disasters, there is, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a disturbing observation of increasing deforestation worldwide. It is highly noble to plant trees and manage the planet’s forests and thus contribute to restoring the carbon cycle by planting trees. But to have a real positive impact on the 2050 zero-emissions target, more trees would have to be planted than have been cut down since 2014 to at least restore, maintain and increase canopy cover. It is an illusion that sequestration is the sole solution to all climate problems. We must act on two fronts: reduce emissions at source, which have increased since 1990, while increasing the sequestration of CO2 emissions that are inevitably emitted. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.
Our next chronicle of July 2020 will be focusing on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on targeted climate-related GHG reduction measures.
The COVID-19 crisis has naturally pushed climate action into second place as the public health crisis unfolds on a global scale and fears of a long-term economic recession are emerging. However, the way decision-makers, businesses and individuals respond to today’s public health emergencies and the resulting successes and failures can provide relevant lessons for responding to other multifaceted disasters, applicable to extreme meteorological events and natural catastrophes.
The health crisis of COVID-19 has had a rapid, measured and significant impact on the reduction of GHG emissions of the past 100 days, i.e. since the January 23, 2020 statement by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the pandemic. Thus, since that moment, there has been a reduction in GHG emissions of 8% according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Is there hope of things changing otherwise than through a confinement decree by the planet’s health authorities? The answer is certainly yes! But the fight against climatic changes requires not only radical innovation and technological deployment but radical changes in the choice and application of public policies as well as systemic collective action embodying significant behavioural changes. In short, it is about radically modifying the Demand, individual by individual, a significant challenge with more than 7.7 billion inhabitants!!