A greener future for the Kingdom through forestation

A greener future for the Kingdom through forestation

A greener future for the Kingdom through forestation
Riyadh residents take part in a tree-planting project as part of the Greener Home initiative. (@Riyadh_Green/File)
Short Url

Climate change and the health of the world’s forests are intricately linked, with the loss of these natural carbon sinks to fires, logging and desertification contributing to greater emissions and rising temperatures.

According to the Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola, the loss of forests is harming the world’s biodiversity, depleting the number of pollinating insects, leading to crop failures, increasing food insecurity and risking the emergence of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.

Forestation is seen as one way to halt and even reverse these dangers. By using technology to convert desert regions into green, nutrient-rich landscapes, forestation can repair the damage caused by climate change and even slow its effects.

As Korena Di Roma Howley wrote in the science news magazine Eos, one of the reasons that climate change is such a dangerous process is that, in time, it leads to a “snowball effect,” in which environmental degradation and extreme temperatures accelerate in tandem.

Forestation can help capture greenhouse gases. Indeed, the Amazon rainforest alone can hold 48 billion tonnes of carbon.

In Saudi Arabia, forestation has become a key focus for many organizations attempting to harness desert land, restore degraded territory and protect what precious forests the Kingdom already has. 

The Saudi Green Initiative has already begun the process of planting some 10 billion trees throughout the Kingdom, with a view to restoring more than 40 million hectares of land. The Middle East Green Initiative, meanwhile, will plant 40 billion trees across the wider region. 

Any forestation project requires long-term thinking of the kind embraced by Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030.

Princess Abeer bint Saud bin Farhan Al-Saud

This effort, first unveiled in 2021, could not come soon enough. Saudi Arabia suffered a 47 percent net loss of tree cover between 2000 and 2020. This ran parallel with an even larger deforestation trend worldwide. Between 2010 and 2020, the UN estimates an annual loss of 4.7 million hectares of forest.

The UN has acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s leadership in forestation, noting the Kingdom’s steadfast commitment to adapting to climate change.

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, southwest London, say clear guidelines must be followed to optimize forestation, including the prioritization of forests that already exist, collaborating with local communities for sustainability, maximizing biodiversity and carefully choosing where to plant.

In one particularly impressive case of forestation, South Korea experienced an increase in forested land from 4 million hectares to 6.3 million hectares between 1961 and 1995, with total planting exceeding 11 billion trees by 2008.

Another successful attempt at forestation, which bodes well for Saudi Arabia, is that of the Kwimba Reforestation Project, which was launched by the Tanzanian government in 1990 and led to the planting of about 6.4 million trees over a nine-year period.

Any forestation project requires long-term thinking of the kind embraced by Saudi Arabia under its social reform and economic diversification agenda, Vision 2030, and other extended roadmaps. 

For all of us who recognize the urgency surrounding climate change, we must take it upon ourselves to learn more about forestation and to support such efforts boldly and aggressively.


Princess Abeer is an international development professional with culture and heritage, peacebuilding, multilateralism and NGO expertise, who has worked for several UN agencies. She currently chairs the Sustainable Development Association, Talga.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view