The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) has championed the work of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in funnelling money into a worldwide tree-planting goal of 50 million trees by 2025.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the department told The Mandarin that the ‘AZ forest’, a large-scale tree-planting initiative delivered by Greening Australia, was a leading example of private enterprise driving sustainable practices.
The federal government’s 20 Million Trees Program had set the scene for privately-led initiatives like AstraZeneca’s to get underway, she added.
“The 20 Million Trees Program has shown leadership in the tree-planting space and has successfully paved the way for future tree-planting programs initiated by private enterprise, community groups, non-government organisations and other government bodies,” the spokesperson said.
“AstraZeneca’s ‘AZ Forest’ is one global initiative aiming to plant 25 million trees in locations around Australia to support threatened species and habitat connectivity,” a statement from environment minister Sussan Ley further explained.
AZ’s tree-planting work is part of the pharmaceutical company’s climate change goals that, together with its zero-carbon strategy, aim to secure a ‘healthy planet’ with ‘healthy people’.
“Trees are a nature-based solution to remove CO2 and are essential to mitigate the effects of climate change,” an excerpt on the AZ website reads, listing cleaner air, cooler surface and air temperatures, and fewer natural disasters among the benefits of having more trees.
“AZ Forest contributes to all three pillars of our sustainability strategy – access to healthcare, environmental protection and ethics and transparency. Within these pillars, local initiatives can positively impact disease prevention, wellbeing and water stewardship.”
The initiative was highlighted by Ley, who announced this week that the federal government had surpassed its target to plant 20 million trees in six years. New reporting shows that nearly 30 million trees have now been planted under the plan.
“Despite periods of lengthy drought, bushfires and flood, the program has re-established critical habitat which will sustain native species and sequester an estimated average 1.47 to 2.95 million tonnes CO2 over the next decade,” Ley said.
“The program is a tribute to six years of hard work from communities and volunteers who have been at the heart of its success.”
A recently published review into the 20 Million Trees program reported that more than 30,000 hectares of land has been revegetated and another 17,958 hectares has been treated for weeds. The effort to plant the trees was also largely thanks to volunteers, the review found, with 96,654 volunteers involved in project activities and another 141 Indigenous people employed in ranger and non-ranger positions under the government program.
The DAWE spokesperson added that the government would continue to invest in activities to remediate natural habitats through other elements of the National Landcare Program.
Minister Ley said a $200 million bushfire recovery program funded by the government would also help to rejuvenate native wildlife and habitat.