Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, Updating the Bonn Challenge, Portugal Steering Toward a Post-Pandemic Green Economy, and Ethiopian Paper Bag Company Employs the Deaf While Saving the Environment

by | Apr 14, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami, plus updating the Bonn Challenge. Portugal steering toward a post-pandemic green economy, and Ethiopia’s Teki Paper Bags Company employs the deaf while also saving the environment.


Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami

Hey, Maude–have you ever heard of a Tree Tsunami? Well neither had I until just a little while ago. A tree tsunami started back in 2018—in the Before Times—when Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, launched a five-year plan to plant 10 billion trees across Pakistan by 2023.

Mr. Khan is no stranger to tree planting. In 2014, while then head of the Khyber Paktoonwha provincial government, he initiated the Billion Tree Tsunami. Pakistan is listed as one of the top five countries most affected by global warming over the last 20 years – despite it being near the bottom of GHG producers.

KPK’s Billion Tree Tsunami restored 350,000 hectares (about 869,000 acres) of forests and degraded land in KPK province, a rugged area bordering Afghanistan. Twin goals of that initiative were to complete the project by 2018, and to surpass its Bonn Challenge commitment. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to restore over 370 million acres of the world’s degraded and deforested lands by 2020 and almost 865 million acres by 2030. Khan’s Billion Tree Tsunami beat both—ending in 2017, while more than doubling KPK’s Bonn Challenge Pledge of 250,000 acres.

Upon election to Prime Minister in 2018, Imran Khan announced a vision of green growth, tying together the needs for sustainable forestry development, generating green jobs, gender empowerment, and preserving Pakistan’s natural capital while also addressing the global issue of climate change. IOW, The 10 Billion Tree Tsunami program.

During the pandemic, Pakistan has been able to use the program to hire over 60,000 citizens left jobless during the pandemic-related lockdown and economic crisis, triple its pre-COVID levels. Said Malik Amin Aslam, climate change adviser to the prime minister. “This has taught us the valuable lesson that when you invest in nature it not only pays you back, but also rescues you in a stressed economic situation.”  So far, 500 million trees have been planted.


DEEPER DIVE: Al Jazeera,, Bloomberg, Billion Tree Tsunami, Plant for Pakistan



As we just reported, The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to restore 370 million acres of the world’s degraded and deforested lands by 2020 and 865 million acres by 2030. It was launched by Germany and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Bonn in 2011, in collaboration with the Global Partnership on Forest/Landscape Restoration.

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of restoring the ecological functionality of degraded and deforested landscape while enhancing the well-being of people who coexist with these places.

The IUCN estimates that fulfilling the goals of the Bonn challenge would create approximately 84 billion $ per year in net benefits that could positively affect income opportunities for rural communities.  It is also estimated that a reduction of the current carbon dioxide emissions gap by 11-17% will be achieved by meeting the challenge.

So, how’s it going 10 years later? First a disclaimer: According to an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Boston Consulting Group, As of April 2020, the number of fire alerts worldwide was up by 13 percent compared to 2019, which was already a record year for fires.

So, while it’s hard to know how much the 2019 and 2020 forest fires have set back restoration work achieved by Bonn Challenge pledgers, there is still some hope. Thus far, 61 countries have made 75 pledges to the Bonn Challenge. The other good news is the Challenge surpassed the 2020 370-million-acre milestone three years early–in 2017, delivering 518 million restored acres.

Plus the Bonn Challenge comes with the Bonn Challenge Barometer. The Barometer focuses on both the results of restoration interventions such as hectares (one acre times 2.47), jobs generated, carbon sequestered and biodiversity areas enhanced, as well as the required conditions behind it, such as the policies a government has passed and the funding it has allocated or secured.

Anybody interested in following the progress of the 61 pledge countries and their forest restoration efforts can do so there. The Bonn Challenge and Barometer are two things we’ll continue to follow here at The Climate.

DEEPER DIVE: Bonn Challenge, BC Barometer, ICUN



A group of entrepreneurs in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is helping to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags and provide a livelihood for women who are deaf or partially deaf. Teki Paper Bags, an enterprise developed by women, has sold almost 1 million handmade paper bags. Teki, which employs 18 deaf workers and has more than 50 clients, is challenging the narrative that paper bags are too expensive – all through sign language.

Ethiopia lags behind other East African countries, such as Rwanda and Kenya, in reducing its plastic consumption and production, primarily because business owners argue against the expense of paper bag production compared to cheap plastic. It’s a situation that has particularly affected Addis Ababa, where plastic bags are clogging the waterways, causing floods in the rainy season and polluting the land.

Clement Piguet, Teki’s co-founder, admits that persuading business owners to choose a more expensive alternative is a challenge but lecturing people about the environment won’t always have the desired impact. Instead, Teki believes that if they can also provide a clear social benefit along with the environmental impact, business owners are more likely to invest in a greener alternative.

 “With our paper bags we want to provide people with the opportunity to change the lives of deaf people, and through this create an alternative way to fight plastic,” says Clement Piguet.

And that’s precisely why this story matters to us. Arguing for a social benefit that also happens to have an environmental benefit tends is proven to be an easier road to victory, says Biden Climate Czar Gina McCarthy. She’s found touting the cost-savings of retro-fitting homes and buildings with more energy efficient products for their constituents, or positioning sea level rise as a national defense issue has won over Republican hearts and minds, which in turn leads to the desired end result—battling climate change.

DEEPER DIVE: Audubon Society, Grist,, Statista, Guardian



Portugal is steering toward a post-coronavirus green economy. The country is preparing a handful of multibillion-dollar projects, including a new hydrogen plant. The solar-powered hydrogen plant is expected to produce cleaner energy than fossil fuels, and it is estimated that it will attract more than $5 billion in private investment. “The economy cannot grow along the lines of the past and our post-coronavirus vision is to create wealth from projects that reduce carbon emissions and promote energy transition and sustainable mobility,” said Environment Minister [ZHO “OUch”] João Matos Fernandes.

Portugal is one of Europe’s sunniest nations – and as such has an ambitious goal of attaining 7,000 MW of renewable energy by 2030. That nation appears to be on track to achieve its goals. In fact, Portuguese power utility Energías de Portugal (EDP), recently announced an unprecedented investment plan for the period 2021-2025.

EDP, which owns about 80% of Portugal’s energy sector, will devote €24 billion euros to the plan, of which 80% will be invested in renewables, 15% in improving power grids, and 5% in solutions for customers and energy management. The company wants to double its installed clean energy capacity in the next 5 years, from 12 GW currently to 25 GW in 2025.  The utility has also planned to stop producing coal power in 2025 and go fully green in 2030. 

DEEPER DIVE: Reuters,, PV Magazine