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Industry & Trends

Saving One Trillion Trees Isn’t as Easy as It Sounds

Billionaire Mark Benioff, who runs the giant software company Salesforce, is having trouble meeting his goal of saving one trillion trees by the end of the decade.

In 2020, Benioff was sitting in his office in the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco—the tallest building in the city—when the smoke and haze from northern wildfires clouded his view so much he said, “I could not see out the windows.”

That’s when he set out on the ambitious goal to plant or protect one trillion trees by 2030, using a mix of growing, restoring and conservation to keep earth’s tree tally a trillion higher than it would have been without his efforts. So far, it’s been a struggle.

The organization he launched to oversee the program, 1t.org, backed by other large corporations as well as governments, has only achieved 15 percent of its goal with just 2.6 billion trees saved so far according to a Bloomberg report that cites co-U.S. organizers of the World Economic Forum and American Forests as its sources.

Climate experts, while applauding the effort, say saving trees is not unto itself the key part of ecological efforts. “Preserving forests, safeguarding these biodiverse spaces—not just for the carbon, but for all the benefits that they provide to ecosystems and to Indigenous communities—it’s all very important,” Rachel Cleetus, the climate and energy policy director at the Union of Concerned Scientists told Bloomberg. But trees “should not be seen as a substitute for the core task at hand here, which is getting off fossil fuels.”

Benioff remains committed to the program. Criticism of his efforts, he says, often comes from people who “view talking about nature as a moral hazard. And I believe we have to be focused on many things.

“I think that there’s a lot of people who are attacking nature and hate nature,” Benioff told Bloomberg, which reported that he has spent almost $17 million on 1t.org and committed hundreds of millions more to tree-related investments. “I’m somebody who loves nature and supports nature.” And in a text to Bloomberg, Benioff reiterated that he’s not planning on stopping his funding until the work is done: “I am committed to the trees and oceans ❤️.”

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