21 March: International Day of Forests
We take care of our forests to protect the planet
International Forest Day is celebrated on 21 March, a global initiative to highlight the importance of these ecosystems in the fight against climate change and to warn of the danger of their degradation. In line with this objective, at the Iberdrola group we join in the conservation and restoration of forests with different programmes to ensure their survival.
Forests are considered the lungs of the planet. Trees purify the air by reducing CO2 and help regulate the climate. They are essential for sustaining life on Earth and play an important role in combating climate change. However, the threat of deforestation and degradation threatens the survival of forests worldwide. In order to raise awareness of their importance, 21 March is International Forest Day, a day that invites us to reflect on their importance and to commit ourselves to their preservation and care.
Fully aligned with this goal, we at the Iberdrola group have integrated the conservation and promotion of the biological diversity of ecosystems into our strategy, a commitment that is materialised in the Biodiversity Policy and for which we have set an ambitious goal: to achieve zero net loss of biodiversity by 2030. In line with this world day, we reaffirm our commitment to ensure the preservation and restoration of forest stands with different initiatives. But why do we need to remember the importance of these ecosystems every year?
Why is International Forest Day celebrated?
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that forests cover one third of the earth and are one of nature's great providers of essential functions for the preservation of the planet and life:
Stemming climate change
Trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change. It is estimated that the world's forests absorb around 7,600 billion metric tons of CO2, equivalent to about 1.5 times the annual emissions of the entire United States. They are also a natural air conditioner, lowering air temperatures by 2 to 8 degrees.
Form a noise barrier
Large forest stands dampen the sound waves of noise from roads, industries or urban centres.
They are a source of water
Forests provide drinking water to more than 33% of the world's major cities.
They provide energy
Forests provide 40% of the world's renewable energy supply.
They are home to many species
They play a key role in conserving life on the planet and are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems, hosting 80% of the world's plant and animal species.
They preserve our survival
More than 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for food, energy, medicine and shelter. In addition, forests enable and contribute to improving mental health and preventing disease.
They strengthen environmental resilience
Forests, if managed sustainably, contribute to reducing soil erosion and the risk of avalanches, landslides and natural disasters.
Experts agree on the enormous ecological, economic and social benefits of forests, but deforestation and degradation threaten their conservation.
Raising awareness on deforestation and degradation
FAO defines deforestation as the conversion of forests to other land uses, such as agriculture, pastures, reservoirs and urban areas, and is the main risk to the future of these ecosystems. Deforestation is advancing at a rate of 13 million hectares per year and is responsible for 12-20% of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, according to the FAO. This organisation estimates that since 1990, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide due to this threat which, although decreasing, is not decreasing at a sufficient rate to ensure the protection of the planet.
The other major threat to these ecosystems according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is degradation, which is the reduction of the capacity of forests to provide goods and services after damage due to human activity (e.g., illegal logging, climate change) or natural (e.g., fire, pests).
International efforts are geared towards the protection and restoration of forests, with the aim of ending these threats and promoting their restoration to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Within the 2030 Agenda, SDG 15, point 15.2 speaks of the need to "promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and significantly increase afforestation and reforestation globally".
We commit, we reforest, we care
At Iberdrola, we work to ensure the conservation of forest biodiversity and preserve flora, fauna and natural heritage through different programmes:
Our reforestation target: 20 million trees by 2030
We have a reforestation plan, the Árboles programme, which promotes the planting of 20 million trees by 2030 —with a first goal of reaching 2.5 million by 2022 and 8 million by 2025—, which will capture approximately 6 million tonnes of CO2 in 30 years. This absorption of carbon dioxide would neutralise the emissions of a car circling the Earth 116 times. In the last two years, the Iberdrola group has planted more than 2 million trees in seven countries.
This initiative is articulated in three branches:
- Conservation of natural heritage,
to mitigate and compensate for forest habitats affected by the occupation of new infrastructure. In 2020 and 2021, we planted 1.55 million trees in Brazil, Spain, Portugal, the UK, the US, Mexico and Greece.
- Regeneration and creation of natural value,
which will reverse the loss of forest mass by promoting initiatives that will enable planting on our own land or that of third parties. In 2022 we launched the challenge 'Innovation and sustainability in rural areas', in collaboration with Start-up Olé and with the support of the European Commission. A pioneering programme to promote the recovery of natural spaces in depopulated areas of Spain and Portugal through the conversion of burnt land or wasteland into forests.
- Research and awareness-raising,
to promote shared knowledge and social value through the company's Volunteering Programme and support for R&D projects. Between 2020 and 2021, Iberdrola promoted the planting of more than 10,000 trees through volunteer actions.
Committed to the environment and ecosystems
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON
INTERNATIONAL FOREST DAY
On what date is it commemorated and when was the first one held?
World Forest Day is celebrated every 21 March. In 2012, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly agreed to commemorate this date, with 2013 being the first year it was celebrated worldwide. Although this was the first official recognition, there were already precedents. The International Day of Forests or World Forest Day was a recommendation of the World Forestry Congress held in Rome in 1969 and accepted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1971.
Why was this date chosen?
The selection of the day is not accidental, as it coincides with the onset of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere.
Who organises the International Day of Forests?
The official organisers are the United Nations Forum on Forests, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), as well as the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, among others.
What is this year's theme?
Each year, the UN chooses a theme for the celebration of the International Day of Forests, which has so far addressed everything from the relationship of these green spaces with water or the city to the importance of environmental education. After 10 years of commitment, the theme of the International Day of Forests for 2022 is "Forests: sustainable consumption and production". In the current campaign, the UN highlights the relevance of sustainable wood - with an international certificate - as an alternative to the use of polluting materials such as plastic.
Where and how to celebrate? International Forest Day 2022 activities
The UN encourages countries to take initiatives at local, national and international levels to organise activities to promote the restoration of forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns, or tasks that pay tribute to green spaces, such as art exhibitions or photo competitions. The organisation also encourages the adoption of any environmentally friendly activities that can be integrated into everyday life, for example recycling or reusing materials such as paper or plastic, avoiding bonfires - which emit greenhouse gases - or planting plants and trees to reduce the carbon footprint.