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Saudi’s Journey of 10 Billion Trees Began with One Planting

tree planting
image courtesy of SPA
Written by Linda Hohnholz

Celebrating Saudi Green Initiative Day is bringing the dream of growing 10 billion trees closer to reality.

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia commemorates Saudi Green Initiative Day, the country reflects on a journey that began 3 years ago with the launch of the Saudi Green Initiative by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on March 27, 2021.

The initiative has flourished and expanded, bringing the ambitious dream of making the country greener and the future more sustainable, through hundreds of projects spurred by the initiative, closer to reality.

“Vegetation Cover Development” Initiatives

Just months after the launch of the initiative, its fruits began to show, echoing throughout every region of the Kingdom. The National Center for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification launched seven ambitious initiatives aimed at achieving the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative. These initiatives include engaging various community sectors in efforts to combat climate change, foster innovation, and accelerate the transition to a greener country. Growing 10 billion trees across the Kingdom, equivalent to rehabilitating over 40 million hectares of degraded lands and restoring natural green spaces, is bound to contribute to the restoration of vital environmental functions, improved air quality, and fewer incidents of dust and sandstorms.

The 10 Billion Tree Study

This initiative aims to explore the feasibility of growing 10 billion trees across the Kingdom in the coming decades, equivalent to rehabilitating more than 40 million hectares of degraded vegetation areas. This will contribute to increasing the vegetation cover, improving the quality of life, providing more natural habitats for endangered species, and mitigating the current impact of climate change.

The National Greening Program

Launching the National Tree-Growing Program and its execution plan serves as a roadmap for growing 10 billion trees, a culmination of efforts that have already seen the planting of more than 70 million trees. The program aims to grow 400 million trees by 2030, 4.7 billion trees by 2060, and 10 billion trees by 2100. This strategic plan is designed to develop vegetation cover in all natural habitats, including urban areas, highways, and green spaces, to enhance the health and well-being of the Kingdom’s residents, especially those in urban areas, to potentially reduce temperatures by 2.2 degrees Celsius, and to improve the air quality.

Forest Management and Development

Efforts began with the Forest Management and Sustainable Development Initiative to reduce forest degradation and rehabilitate deteriorated areas by 2030, in addition to enhancing vegetation cover by rehabilitating 348,000 hectares of degraded forests and reforesting severely deforested areas in the central region by growing 60 million native trees. For this initiative, there is need of sustainable forest management and of protecting and restoring rare and endangered plant species.

Rangeland Preservation

The initiative to preserve and restore vegetation in rangelands, in its first phase, aims to rehabilitate eight million hectares at 26 sites in the Kingdom, reduce the impact of sandstorms, improve public health, and provide nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration and climate-change mitigation. This effort will contribute to the Saudi Green Initiative’s goals, support local communities, and enhance food security.

Developing 50 National Parks

By improving the vegetation cover and developing the infrastructure for 50 national parks, the goal is to reduce carbon emissions by four million tons, combat desertification, restore biodiversity, and provide nature-based solutions for carbon capture and climate-change mitigation. This includes conducting environmental and socio-economic assessments to develop infrastructure for existing and new national parks, promoting eco-tourism, and supporting local economies.

Seven Million Trees for Royal Reserves

This initiative, in collaboration with the royal reserves, aims to grow seven million native trees in these reserves to offer natural solutions for carbon sequestration, climate-change mitigation, and biodiversity restoration, reducing carbon emissions by 2.8 million tons and boosting eco-tourism.

Engaging the Public Sector in Afforestation

This initiative involves collaboration with public sector entities to launch a 10-year afforestation and restoration program entailing planting, growing and protecting 18 million native trees. The main goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7.2 million tons, offer nature-based solutions for carbon capture and climate-change mitigation, and improve air quality.

Engaging the Private Sector in Afforestation

The aim of this initiative is to launch a 10-year afforestation and restoration program to plant, grow and protect 40 million native trees by engaging the private sector, in collaboration with private sector entities, in boosting vegetation cover and combating desertification. The main goals are to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16 million tons, and provide nature-based solutions for carbon capture and climate-change mitigation.

The Saudi Green Initiative is one of the world’s largest reforestation enterprises. It reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing various environmental challenges, including reduced rainfall, limited arable land, and forest areas. The core goal, of growing 10 billion trees, represents 1% of the global afforestation target, and 20% of the 50-billion-tree target set by the Middle East Green Initiative.