Drug firm to plant 200 million trees by 2030 by reforesting US, UK, France, Vietnam, Brazil, India, Ghana, Rwanda, Australia, & Indonesia

On June 28, 2023, the Cambridge, England-based pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, announced a $400 million investment in its global AZ Forest program, raising its commitment to plant 200 million trees by 2030…and ensure their long-term survival.

That last point is an important one, given the miserable failures of so many massive tree-planting initiatives around the world, most of them motivated more by politicians seeking headlines than by any real commitment to environmental restoration.

This includes new or expanded projects in Brazil, India, Vietnam, Ghana and Rwanda that will contribute to the company’s climate action, restore nature, promote biodiversity and build ecological and community resilience, spanning over 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) worldwide.

The investment builds on AstraZeneca’s initial AZ Forest commitment, announced in 2020, to plant and maintain more than 50 million trees by the end of 2025 in recognition of the strong connection between healthy people and a healthy planet.

Planting has progressed at pace in Australia, Indonesia, Ghana, the UK, the US and France, with over 300 tree species, allowing the restoration of biodiversity and natural habitats.

In addition, the expanded program will deliver benefits to local communities, positively impacting an estimated 80,000 livelihoods.

AZ Forest is part of AstraZeneca’s flagship sustainability strategy, Ambition Zero Carbon, which is focused on delivering deep decarbonization in line with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting planetary warming to 1.5°C.

The company is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from its operations and fleet by 98% by 2026* and halve its entire value chain footprint by 2030, on the way to a 90% absolute emissions reduction and becoming science-based net zero by 2045** at the latest.2 Through AZ Forest, the Company aims to remove its residual emissions from the atmosphere from 2030 onwards.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca said: “The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are damaging the planet and harming human health. Through AZ Forest, we are working with local communities and ecological experts to deliver reforestation at scale, as well as support biodiversity and sustain livelihoods. We are taking a science-based approach, and AZ Forest will remove around 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over about 30 years.

AZ Forest projects are co-designed with planting experts, local communities and governments to deliver natural forest restoration and agroforestry, with co-benefits such as the creation of new skills and jobs, the protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species and improved public health.

Projects will be audited and assessed by world-leading delivery partners and independent third-party experts, including the European Forest Institute (EFI).

Marc Palahí, Chair of the Circular Bioeconomy Alliance (CBA), said: “Forests play a key role in fighting climate change, hosting biodiversity and powering a circular bioeconomy that prospers in harmony with nature. Forests and trees are the backbone for life on our planet and the basis for human health and wellbeing. Through the design and delivery of public-private partnerships like AZ Forest, which are underpinned by a science-based and principles-led approach, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and create economic and social value for local communities.

As part of its commitment to reforestation, AstraZeneca has partnered with the EFI and the CBA to publish a first-of-its kind, science-based framework for sustainable, resilient and locally appropriate landscape regeneration. The CBA Principles for Regenerative Landscapes will enable circular bioeconomy value chains and restore biodiversity.

AZ Forest contributes to the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org initiative, a public-private partnership to conserve, restore and grow one trillion trees by 2030.

AZ Forest is AstraZeneca’s commitment to plant and maintain 200 million trees by 2030, in partnership with experts and local communities. AZ Forest projects support planetary and human health with significant socio-economic co-benefits and are part of AstraZeneca’s science-based net zero strategy, Ambition Zero Carbon.

Three-quarters of land globally has been significantly altered by human activities, with profound effects on ecosystems and population health.5,6 Reforestation is a nature-based solution which can mitigate the effects of climate change as it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and contributes to climate adaptation and resilience.7 Through safeguarding water resources, promoting food security and nutrition, lowering surface and air temperatures and combatting air pollution, restoring forest landscapes and biodiversity supports human health, with additional benefits for communities and economies.8,9

AZ Forest will include the use of the latest innovations in remote sensing and high-resolution imagery, and long-term monitoring will track the health of trees, soil and water quality and biodiversity, as well as carbon sequestration.

Building on projects underway in Australia, Indonesia, Ghana, the UK, the US and France, the expansion of AZ Forest includes new and expanded projects across Africa, Asia and South America:

  • Brazil: A new 30-year AZ Forest partnership with Biolífica Ambipar and Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPE) called “Corridors for Life” will plant 12 million trees within the Atlantic Forest, with over 100 native species planned in each project area. Creating ecological corridors between fragmented pockets of forests in the west of São Paulo state, this programme will build an important habitat for vulnerable and endangered species.
  • India: A new 30-year AZ Forest partnership with Earthbanc and local implementation partners in the state of Meghalaya in north-east India will plant an estimated 64 million trees, focusing on a diverse mix of species. The project is expected to be the largest of the CBA’s “Living Labs for Nature, People and Planet”. It will restore nature in this degraded biodiversity hotspot while supporting farming livelihoods.
  • Ghana: An expansion of the existing AZ Forest programme in Ghana with the CBA, New Generation Plantation Technical Assistance (NGPTA) and other partners will see an additional 2.2 million trees planted, bringing the total targeted number of surviving trees to 4.7 million, and restoring 8,000 hectares of degraded areas in the Atebubu-Amantin and Sene West districts of central Ghana. This community-led programme, part of a network of “Living Labs”, seeks to boost forest restoration, agroforestry, biodiversity and nature-based business models for small-holder farmers.
  • Rwanda: AstraZeneca has provided funding for the pilot phase of an agroforestry project with smallholder farmers to help accelerate the development of a new 30-year project in partnership with the Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) and Reforest’Action. The project will plant more than 5.8 million trees, with a focus on agroforestry and agricultural land management which will benefit local communities and improve livelihoods. With the aim to be another “Living Lab”, the “MuLaKiLa” project will help more than 30,000 farming households in what is one of the largest forest restoration initiatives in Rwanda.
  • Vietnam: AstraZeneca has committed to planting 22.5 million trees across at least 30,500 hectares to restore Vietnam’s forests and landscapes. This new investment will allow biodiversity to flourish, provide sustainable livelihoods for more than 17,000 small-holder farmers, improve diets and nutrition, and conserve soil and water.
  • Additional projects are in development.

AZ Forest projects support planetary and human health with significant socio-economic co-benefits, as part of AstraZeneca’s science-based net zero strategy, Ambition Zero Carbon. By the end of 2022, over 10.5 million trees had been planted, despite a global pandemic, in:

  • Australia: In partnership with Greening Australia and One Tree Planted, more than four million trees have been planted (total programme of 25 million), including 260 native tree species, supporting vulnerable and endangered wildlife species.
  • Indonesia: In partnership with One Tree Planted and Trees4Trees, more than three million trees have been planted, with over 13,000 farmers opting into agroforestry activities in 2022.
    Ghana: Over one million trees have been planted out of an initial commitment to plant three million surviving trees, driving ecological and community resilience through the community-led “Living Lab” project in partnership with CBA.
  • France: AstraZeneca has replanted 450 rare oak trees lost in the devastating storms of 1990 and 1999 at the Palace of Versailles. The oak trees provide a natural habitat for butterflies, birds, fungi and mammals, promoting biodiversity and bringing life back to the iconic gardens of Versailles.
  • UK: More than 470,000 trees have been planted in Scotland and England with Forestry England and Borders Forest Trust Scotland, to create high-quality woodland areas that provide additional green space in support of physical and mental wellbeing.
  • US: More than 100,000 trees have been planted to date, restoring more than 100 kilometers of riverside woodlands in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Through its Ambition Zero Carbon strategy, AstraZeneca is pursuing ambitious, science-based decarbonization targets, accelerating progress towards net zero, and managing the risks and opportunities presented by climate change. The Company is on track to reduce GHG emissions from its global operations and fleet (Scope 1 and 2) by 98% by 2026 (from a 2015 baseline).

AstraZeneca aims to halve its entire value chain footprint (Scope 3) by 2030, on the way to a 90% absolute emissions reduction (from a 2019 baseline) and become science-based net zero by 2045 at the latest.

AstraZeneca was one of the first seven companies globally to have its net zero targets verified by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) Corporate Net-Zero Standard. Through AZ Forest, AstraZeneca will invest in high-quality, nature-based solutions to remove residual emissions not eliminated, reduced or substituted (no greater than 10% of 2019 emissions footprint).

Photo of farming valley in Vietnam by ThuyHaBich from Pixabay

Learn more about AstraZeneca Ambition Zero Carbon.

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