15 Nov 2017

Trillion Trees: three conservation giants join forces to end deforestation

Can you imagine a world with a trillion more trees? Last night in London, the three “great oaks” of the conservation world launched an unprecedented partnership striving not only to halt deforestation, but to reverse it.

Forests provide invaluable ecosystem services to the people who live and work alongside them © Omar Torrico
Forests provide invaluable ecosystem services to the people who live and work alongside them © Omar Torrico
By Jessica Law

BirdLife International, WWF UK and the Wildlife Conservation Society have pooled our resources to achieve a single, ambitious goal: our vision is that, by 2050, a trillion trees will have been planted, restored or protected.

A trillion trees seems a huge number, but it wasn’t just chosen for alliteration. This is the number required to reverse the current catastrophic global decline in tree cover. And we really need our trees: forests soak up more than 45% of carbon on land, ofsetting the effects of climate change. They are home to two thirds of all land-based plants and animals, and support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people. They clean our air and water. Yet we’re currently losing 10 billion trees a year.  At the beginning of human civilization, the planet was covered by six trillion trees – and there are now only three trillion.

“One of the largest societal priorities of the 21st century”

We believe that ambition gets things done – and a trillion trees isn’t at all out of reach. All three organisations are already performing successful forest restoration worldwide. But by joining forces, we can create a power greater than the sum of its parts. Together, we can take our individual efforts and scale them up to a new level, sharing our knowledge and resources and avoiding duplication of effort.


Trillion Trees was launched with talks from private sector, government and NGO leaders © Charlotte Atkin

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!


To achieve this, we will focus on closing two gaps. The first is the implementation gap: we need to find more effective ways to get conservation policies to actually reach the ground. The second is the ambitions gap. There is increasing research suggesting that forests can do even more than current policies recognize. We need to reflect this by increasing our global research and advocacy, to truly find out what it’s possible to achieve.

 “It’s about the right trees in the right places,” said Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International. “With responsible land-use comprising almost 25 percent of the global climate solution, aligning our forest work through Trillion Trees is our contribution to one of the largest societal priorities of the 21st century.”

“It’s about the right trees in the right places”

The best way to realise our vision is through focused activity. And we’ve already started work on some of our highest priority sites. We’re currently expanding and strengthening protected areas in Colombian rainforests. And In Africa, we’re designing sustainable, deforestation-free cocoa production in forests across the continent. If our work is to have a lasting impact, we believe it is essential to develop locally tailored action plans that also benefit the community whose livelihoods depend on the forest.

We think there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. This partnership will spur all three global organisations on to greater heights than ever before – and, hopefully, inspire governments and NGOs worldwide to raise their game, too.


Read the full press release below:


New “Trillion Trees” Partnership Calls for Global Efforts To Protect and Restore 1 Trillion Trees


  • The Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, and BirdLife International together will target critical forests in Asia, South America, and Africa

London, UK – The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), WWF, and BirdLife International today launched the Trillion Trees programme, a 25-year initiative to help implement and scale global forest commitments and spur greater ambitions towards protecting and restoring one trillion trees by 2050—the number needed to reverse the global decline in tree cover.

The planet is losing 10 billion trees per year, leading to widespread impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, local economies and human health. The response of the Trillion Trees Partnership is twofold: catalyze large-scale investments to protect, restore, and replant trees in the most at-risk landscapes, and inspire greater action under private and public forest commitments guided by the Paris Climate Agreement, the New York Declaration on Forests, the UN Convention on Biodiversity (“CBD”), and other frameworks. 

The partners—three of world’s largest conservation organizations, which collectively work in over 120 countries—will create tailored solutions, including an emphasis on pilot projects that involve corporate actors.

Collectively, corporate commodity supply chains are linked to 80 percent of the loss of tropical forests across Asia, South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, the areas most crucial to absorbing global greenhouse gases.

“It’s about the right trees in the right places,” said Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International. “With responsible land-use comprising almost 25 percent of the global climate solution, aligning our forest work through Trillion Trees is our contribution to one of the largest societal priorities of the 21st century. Combatting forest loss and increasing forest restoration are central to meeting some of the world’s most important environmental goals, and BirdLife is thrilled to be part of this important effort.”

Said John Robinson, WCS Chief Conservation Officer, “Many companies and governments already recognize the value that trees hold for human societies and wildlife, which is why so many are committing themselves to ‘zero-deforestation’ policies. WCS is proud to leverage more than 100 years of scientific and advocacy expertise throughout the tropics to help these partners target their investments effectively to improve global tree cover.”

WWF, WCS, and BirdLife are already jointly advancing some of these activities in high-priority forests around the world, particularly from where palm, soy, beef, and timber products are derived.  The policy goals these activities support include the Bonn Challenge to restore 350 million hectares of forests by 2030, the CBD’s Aichi Targets, which aim to halve forest loss by 2020, and the New York Declaration on Forests, which aims to end deforestation by 2030 and also reinforces the Bonn Challenge goal on restoration.

In the coming years, the Trillion Trees partners will expand these initial activities and mobilize financing for other priority areas for solutions that account for local forestry and related social and economic issues.  Recognizing the value of trees, the partners will use a combination of better forest regulations and protections, assisted natural regeneration, and the replanting of trees to develop successful “proof-of-concept” projects that are fundable and that effectively increase tree cover. Examples of those under development include:

●        Supporting long-term financing, expansion and strengthening of the protected areas network in Colombia

●        Scaling up environmental certification in locally controlled forests in Tanzania

●        Supporting the design and financing of large-scale restoration plans for vulnerable watershed areas of the Rwandan highlands

●        Establishing sustainable, deforestation-free models of cocoa production linked to protection of adjacent forests in multiple landscapes in Africa and elsewhere.

“Although forest restoration plans and strategies to avoid deforestation exist around the world, on-the-ground implementation and financing of these commitments lag well behind these ambitions,” said Simon Petley, Forest and Finance Programme Manager, WWF-UK. “Trillion Trees will help achieve global forest commitments by bringing together a diverse group of corporate, non-profit, and community stakeholders to deliver targeted conservation projects and unlock access to private-public funding."

For context, approximately half of the world’s original six trillion trees have been lost since the beginning of civilization.  Most of the remaining forests have been damaged by industrial-scale human activities, yet still hold more than 45 percent of terrestrial carbon, are home to two-thirds of all land-based plant and animals, and support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people.  Trillion Trees has received generous seed funding from UK-based funders Restore-UK to help conserve the world’s most at-risk trees from further loss and restore critical ones that have already disappeared.  For more information, see www.trilliontrees.org.