Reducing Carbon Emission through One Million Tree Planting Initiative

18 October 2023

The Tongan government made a resolute commitment to combat carbon emissions through the ambitious “One Million Tree Planting Programme.” This endeavor received strong support from the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (EU GCCA+) SUPA project, aimed at bolstering climate resilience. Spearheaded by the dedicated team at the Climate Change Department, and in close partnership with local stakeholders, the One Million Tree Planting Initiative emerged as a pivotal element of Tonga’s strategy to tackle climate change head-on. At its core, this initiative recognized the indispensable role trees play in sequestering carbon, offering a robust defense against the impacts of global warming.

Tonga has been grappling with the escalating consequences of climate change, such as coastal inundation, saltwater intrusion, and prolonged periods of drought. In response, the island nation shifted its focus towards ecosystem-based solutions. The comprehensive tree replanting program unfolded across the five administrative divisions within Tonga, encompassing a total of 23 districts and benefiting a population of 107,773. This initiative was a significant stride in Tonga’s pursuit of its Low Emission Development Strategy for the years 2021-2050.

Tonga’s Third National Communication (TNC) indicated that the nation emitted a total of 310.4Gg of CO2. The planting of mangrove seedlings in coastal areas not only served to sequester carbon but also created a vital habitat for mud crabs and a nursery for fish. This, in turn, stimulated local markets for crab and fish sellers. Ms. Luisa Tuiafitu-Malolo, the Director of the Department of Climate Change, lauded the University of the South Pacific for its role in the GCCA+SUPA project. The university played a pivotal role in procuring resources and delivering tailored capacity-building programs and awareness initiatives to communities.

This journey was not taken alone; collaborative endeavors spanned across various sectors. Government agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector, and academic institutions joined hands to maximize the project’s reach and impact throughout the nation. With each tree planted, Tonga’s carbon sequestration capacity grew, making a direct contribution to the global campaign against climate change. The “One Million Tree Planting Initiative,” with its EU GCCA+ SUPA support, stood as a testament to the remarkable power of international collaboration, scientific knowledge, and community engagement in confronting one of the most pressing challenges of our era.

The story of the One Million Tree Planting Initiative stands as a valuable case study, underscoring the significance of interdisciplinary approaches, community involvement, and international cooperation in addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change.

The EU-funded GCCA+SUPA project, amounting to €15 million, was implemented in collaboration with The Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and USP. It united the governments and people of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Tonga, and Tuvalu in a common cause, forging a powerful alliance in the battle against climate change.

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