Can’t See the Wood for the Trees

The topic of tree planting for carbon offsetting has been in the news a lot recently, and for the first time receiving some negative press. With a lot of operators choosing to support tree planting projects, we reached out to Amanda Bronkhorst, C.E.O. & Founder of JUST ONE Tree to provide her point of view.

Q. Recently there has been an increasing amount of negative press when it comes to tree planting schemes. What are you views on these stories?

A. The stories we hear and that are constantly in the press about fake forests and the like, are all associated to carbon offsetting projects and carbon credits. This is why we very much stay away from them. These articles relate to this year’s findings that 94% of Verra’s projects in the Rainforest for carbon credits were worthless (Verra is the best standard in the world for carbon credits). And the top 50 carbon credits projects worldwide were basically ‘junk’.
In a nutshell, it is becoming evident that carbon credits aren’t worth the virtual paper they’re written on as they have nil or little positive effect on the planet and in some cases a negative effect.

All in all, it is much better for companies to put their money into indigenous/community led projects, with restoration and conservation at their heart, which focuses on addressing the causes of degradation. Projects which create a sustainable pathway forwards for both the communities and forests to live in harmony with each other and effectively protect each other’s futures. Better that then putting their money in ‘carbon credits’ or ‘carbon offsets’. In fact, even Shell is now pulling out of using carbon offsetting.

Q. There has also been a growing feeling that tree planting is ineffective due to amount of time it takes for a tree to reach maturity and to be effective. What do you say to that?

A. Firstly, trees start absorbing carbon as they grow. And in fact, their growth life spans normally around the first 25 years. So, although in the first year or so, there’s a limited amount of carbon, it quickly ramps up. As the Chinese Proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”

Secondly, it’s not just about the carbon in the air. Ecosystem restoration is essential to restore the damage we’ve done. The climate crisis is also a biodiversity crisis and without a healthy ecosystem, healthy forests, balance in nature, the end result is complete planetary collapse.
Currently the best solutions we have for both absorbing carbon and restoring nature, are nature-based solutions. Of which trees are at the forefront. Again, as the saying goes “nature knows best”.

Q. Finally, and most recently, we have seen reports that suggest we should focus on a shift from carbon reduction to carbon removal and that we should be looking at new technologies that remove and solidify carbon. Do you share those views?

A. Firstly, we should never move away from carbon reduction. That’s just suicide. In fact, for example, if we were to immediately stop all our carbon emissions tomorrow, there would still be too much carbon in the atmosphere already. We need to reach net-negative emissions, where we’re pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere than we’re putting into it.

The key thing is stopping our carbon emissions PLUS carbon removal through nature-based solutions.

In terms of carbon removal technologies, it has been promised for decades and still not been delivered anywhere either at scale nor at an affordable cost. It is estimated that it will take decades more to get something at scale, at which point it will be far too late and the impacts of climate change will have been severe.

You can learn more about the work carried out by JUST ONE Tree by visiting or by contacting Amanda directly using