13 October 2021

The Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods

The Kew Declaration, signed by over 3,000 global experts and concerned citizens, is the first of its kind.

By Kew Science News

Hand holding a seedling

Over 3,000 global experts and concerned citizens from 114 countries have supported and signed a key Declaration that aims to promote the long-term protection and restoration of natural forest ecosystems worldwide.

Published today in the journal Plants, People, Planet, the 'Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods' encourages policies and frameworks to protect intact forests and ensure effective restoration strategies to safeguard biodiversity, mitigate climate change and improve livelihoods. 

Tree planting is often touted as an easy answer to the climate crisis as well as a convenient way for corporate companies to mitigate their carbon emissions.

However, inappropriate tree planting can cause more harm than good to both nature and people. 

The Declaration is based on a synthesis of evidence, discussions and conclusions presented at the Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods conference, hosted by Kew and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) earlier in the year.

It additionally incorporates evidence published in the scientific literature, including the ‘Ten golden rules for reforestation’, a review paper based on the latest ecological research that sets out a framework for reforestation projects to maximise the benefits for people and the planet. 

Among the list of signatures, which came from 423 organisations and 2,612 individuals, were key signatories such as 1t.org, Trillion Trees, the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, the World Agroforestry Center, Plan Vivo, Ecosia and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Dr Kate Hardwick, Conservation Partnership Coordinator at RBG Kew says,

“The loss of natural forest habitat has a devastating impact on biodiversity, climate change, the livelihoods of local and indigenous people and the spread of zoonotic diseases. We want policy makers, funders and project managers to make the protection of existing natural forests their top priority, and then to safeguard and enhance biodiversity at every stage of the reforestation process."

Dr Paul Smith, BGCI says,

“We hope the Kew Declaration will be considered by a wide range of policymakers during COP26 discussions to ensure that the right policies are in place to protect our existing forests and to maximise the impacts for people, biodiversity and carbon capture when planting new forests. We’re confident that if policymakers, practitioners and businesses work together with local and indigenous communities and the scientific community, we can herald a new era for the world’s forests that benefits everyone."

The Kew Declaration requests:

1. That policymakers, financiers and practitioners: 

  • Adhere to biodiversity safeguarding principles
  • Ensure that the interest of local and indigenous peoples are paramount
  • Where trade offs are not realistically avoidable, ensure that there is always a ‘net gain’ biodiversity offset,
  • Safeguard and restore the populations of threatened plant species
  • Monitor and manage restored habitat, ensuring tree establishment
  • Learn from past mistakes

2. Reforestation should not replace the imperative to transition away from fossil fuels and wood-based energy production and to de-carbonise supply chains.

3. Incentives and subsidies that promote clearing or degradation of natural ecosystems should be removed, and positive financial incentives that promote the protection of existing forest and the conservation and sustainable use of native biodiversity should be instigated.

4. Policymakers and practitioners of large-scale reforestation programmes should partner with the botanical, ecological, (agro)forestry, and wider conservation and scientific communities and holders of traditional knowledge

Read the full Declaration in Plants, People, Planet

About Plants, People, Planet

Plants, People, Planet is a multi-disciplinary Open Access journal, owned by the New Phytologist Foundation and published by Wiley. The journal promotes outstanding plant-based research in its broadest sense and celebrates everything new, innovative and exciting in plant-focused research that is relevant to society and people's daily lives.


About the New Phytologist Foundation

The New Phytologist Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of plant science. It owns and produces the international journals New Phytologist and Plants, People, Planet.


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