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Ending the climate crisis means creating a society that is going in the right direction at the right speed by 2030, a rate of change that will lead to zero net emissions before 2050. That means halving emissions by 2030 and then halving again by 2040. Regeneration starts now.

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Snow-covered taiga forest in Finland.

Snow-covered taiga forest in Finland.

Credit: David Allemand

Boreal Forests

Call to action:

Stop logging, extracting, and poisoning the land, species, and waters of the world’s most carbon-dense forests. Instead, protect and regenerate the primary forest with indigenous leadership front and center.

Stretching across 1.5 billion acres of the Northern Hemisphere—from Canada to Scandinavia to Russia (the Taiga) to Japan—the Boreal forests are the most carbon dense forest systems on Earth. They are home to hundreds of Indigenous communities, centuries-old conifers, mossy peatlands, and large caribou herds. However, industrial activities such as oil and gas extraction, mining, and logging are destroying these ancient forests. Oil companies are clearing forests and spewing toxins for large construction and mining projects such as the Athabasca Tar Sands Project in Alberta, Canada. Producers such as Procter & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific are converting virgin fiber into deluxe, plush toilet paper. The boreal forest is being scraped, polluted, and destroyed in ways that will require hundreds, if not thousands, of years to recover. Protecting and regenerating the remaining less than one-third of primary forest is imperative, and supporting First Nations and Indigenous leaders who are taking the helm of conservation and protection efforts is crucial.

Action Items

Individuals

Learn more about Boreal forests and why it’s important to protect them. Key points to learn about Boreal forests are:

  • They host numerous endangered species such as the wolverine, the grizzly bear, the whooping crane, and the woodland caribou.
  • They hold 1,140 billion tons of carbon in soil and biomass, 50 percent more than what is in the atmosphere.
  • They are home to hundreds of First Nations communities including the First Nations of the Waswanipi Cree, the Moose Cree, the Atikamekw, and the Łutsel K’e Dene. Over seventy Indigenous communities have launched Indigenous Guardians programs to help manage the Boreal forests. Their work encompasses a wide variety of projects, including reforestation, wildlife conservation, ecotourism, and the creation of national parks.
  • Industrial activities such as oil and gas extraction, mining, and logging are posing long-term implications on the future health of Boreal forests. The footprint of natural resource extraction industries in the Boreal encompasses an area of over 180 million acres.
  • The “tree-to-toilet” pipeline is a term used to describe luxury toilet paper production such as the kind carried out by Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clarke, and Georgia-Pacific. These companies rely on virgin fiber to produce their paper, claiming more than a million acres of virgin Boreal forest every year.
  • Some toilet paper producers defend themselves by arguing they “cut one and plant one.” However, the old-growth trees being cut contain greater amounts of carbon than newly planted trees will capture in forty years.
  • You can also take online courses such as the Boreal Forest and Wildlife Management Course or Tundra & Boreal Forest to learn more about Boreal forests and how to manage them.

Prevent further oil and mining projects. Alongside industrial logging, oil and mining activities are among the most damaging to the Boreal forests. There are several actions you can take to help stop the expansion of the tar sands and open-pit mining projects:

Purchase toilet paper made from recycled content or alternative fibers like bamboo. You can also consider switching to a bidet to reduce your toilet paper consumption. NRDC’s Toilet Paper Sustainability Scorecard is a good guide to which brands to purchase and which to avoid. Standout brands to avoid include:

Use reusable cloth instead of paper towels. Many, if not all, functions of a paper towel can be replaced by a washable cloth, saving paper and likely some virgin tree fiber. You can find a complete list of reusable rags here, or simply recycle an old T-shirt.

Reduce paper mail, bags, and boxes. The rise of online shopping has resulted in companies individually packaging purchases that would otherwise leave brick-and-mortar shops in bags. In 2018 alone, e-commerce generated 1.3 million tons of container board in North America, two thirds of which is made from virgin pulp. DS Smith, UK’s largest cardboard box manufacturer and supplier (including to Amazon), produced 17 billion boxes in 2020. Most forms of paper mail too, like catalogs, are outdated and extraneous. You can make some simple lifestyle shifts to digitize basic communications and reduce paper packaging:

  • Stop buying paper shopping bags. Bring your own bag instead.
  • Reduce online purchases that arrive in excessive packaging.
  • Avoid unnecessary printing.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists by visiting http://www.dmachoice.org. You can also stop credit-card promotional mailings by calling 1-888-567-8688 or visiting http://www.optoutprescreen.com.

Support Indigenous rights. The Boreal forests are home to hundreds of Indigenous communities. Industrial activities such as oil and gas extraction, mining, and logging are posing the greatest threat to the environment and wildlife these communities depend on and are done mostly without their consent or participation. The promotion of Indigenous voices is critical to the preservation of Boreal forests, as Indigenous communities have developed a regenerative relationship with their land over thousands of years. You can support Indigenous rights by:

Participate in ecotourism and travel to Boreal forest destinations. Ecotourism takes visitors to natural environments with the goal of supporting local conservation efforts, observing wildlife, and boosting the local economy. In Boreal forests, ecotourism provides an economic alternative to the destruction of the forest, proving more profitable per hectare than those cleared for logging operations. To ensure forests are left undisturbed by industrial activity, it is critical that governments see the economic benefits of ecotourism. Choices include:

Take a forest restoration course. Forest restoration can generate various benefits, such as increasing climate resilience, improving water and air quality, restoring wildlife habitats, and creating jobs for local communities. You can learn the different forest restoration techniques through the following courses:

Volunteer with a local restoration organization. Volunteering as part of a forest restoration project can be great fun and will help you support conservation efforts in the Boreal. Some of the most notable initiatives in Canada include:

Groups

Publishing Companies

Commit to using recycled paper. The traditional publishing supply chain is an enormous consumer of paper and virgin pulp. However, recent figures suggest that only about 60 percent of publishers have a formal environmental policy in place or are in the midst of completing one.

  • Green Books has built its business on publishing books using vegetable ink on paper made from a minimum of 75 percent recycled material.
  • Raincoast Books publishes over 95 percent of its books on 100 percent postconsumer endangered forest–free recycled paper.

Stop using paper made from virgin tree materials. Use instead other raw ingredients or materials to create alternative paper products, such as postconsumer waste, kenaf, or bamboo.

Authors

Ask to be printed on recycled paper. Several authors are including a recycled paper clause in their contracts with publishers. Speak with your publisher about printing exclusively on postconsumer recycled papers that do not contain virgin fibers.

Construction Companies

Source certified softwood lumber for buildings. Although mass timber is emerging as a viable alternative to concrete and steel buildings, the lumber must be sourced responsibly. Currently, softwood lumber makes up 29 percent of Canada’s forest product exports. Companies using such wood in the construction sector need to ensure that the wood is logged sustainably and certified as such. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one organization that provides certification of timber products.

Companies

Eliminate deforestation from your supply chain. The use of virgin tree materials in supply chains is among the root causes of deforestation and biodiversity loss. The following initiatives and organizations can help you vet your supply chain for deforestation:

  • Canopy is a nonprofit organization helping companies ensure their paper and other products are not produced by logging carbon-rich forests. You can donate or contact them here.
  • Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) developed a framework that provides unified guidance on how to implement credible supply-chain commitments. You can learn how to apply the framework to your supply chain here.
  • The Consumer Goods Forum is among the largest global industry networks developing new paths to eliminate deforestation from supply chains. Some of their corporate policies include: no clearing on carbon-rich peat lands; no use of fires for clearing; no clearing on high conservation value (HCV) areas; no clearing on high carbon stock (HCS) areas; respect for Indigenous land rights; obtaining free, prior, and informed consent from local communities before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them; production only on legal lands; no use of forced or slave labor; and a commitment to transparency regarding a company’s production practices. You can become a member of the Consumer Goods Forum here.
  • Deforestation Free Funds is a database for investment funds, ranked by sustainability (a project of Friends of the Earth).
  • Ceres, a nonprofit that works with the business community, provides an investors’ guide to deforestation and climate change.
  • Profundo is an NGO that analyzes commodity chains, the financial sector, and the impacts of businesses on sustainability, from human rights to deforestation and climate change, and advises clients.

Halt expansion and development of new oil sands. In 2021, the International Energy Agency stated clearly that no new expansion of fossil fuel fields or construction of coal-fired power stations can take place if the world is to stay on target for net-zero emissions by 2050. To ensure a regenerative future and uphold Indigenous land rights, companies must stop strip-mining and drilling tar sands deposits and prevent the building of any further infrastructure such as pipelines, terminals, and power plants that require further extraction.

Get consent from Indigenous groups and First Nations. Consulting Indigenous peoples prior to the start of a project is critical to the ongoing health of the Boreal and respecting Indigenous rights to self-determination. Secure free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) from Indigenous peoples before operating on their lands. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also offers an online course on how to carefully consider and engage with local communities while developing a project.

Include natural capital and ecosystems services in business plans. An economic case for land protection and restoration can be made based on the value of nature and the ecosystem service it provides.

  • ReGen’s regenerative investment model provides a scalable, open-source framework that protects and restores natural capital at scale.
  • Global Canopy is a market-based initiative to provide financial institutions and corporations data on environmental opportunities.

Governance

Limit extractive permits. Oil and mining companies require the approval of several levels of government to get new projects up and running. By involving local authorities, Indigenous peoples, and nongovernmental organizations in the process, governments can better assess the environmental and social impact of these projects and reject or limit extractive permits when necessary. For example, MiningWatch Canada is working to change the laws and policies that enable destructive mining practices, but the Canadian government restricts the advocacy work that such charities are allowed to undertake.

Reclassify logging concessions. Reclassifying logging concessions, the areas dedicated to logging operations, can help generate income and employment while making it easier to gain political support for conservation. For example, a logging concession may be declassified if it is found to have a significant richness in its biodiversity or a high heritage value, or if it is subject to substantial environmental risks.

Switch from “land-use planning” to “land-relationship planning.” Land-use planning is a traditional term used in land management, whereby parts of a national territory are exploited to support economic needs. A more innovative, holistic approach described as land-relationship planning, which focuses on the relationship between humans and the natural environment, can provide more inclusive and sustainable land management strategies. The creation of the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve is a leading example of this approach.

Implement active fire ecology. Fire ecology is a branch of ecology focusing on the origins and causes of wildfires, as well as their relationship to both living and nonliving environments that surround them. The main goal of active fire ecology is to improve public education, shift the fire-suppression mentality, and introduce the public to the benefits of regular wildfires. For example, the Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE) supports an innovative approach to working with fire, in order to protect rural communities, restore fire-adapted ecosystems, and preserve fire-dependent species. You can donate here to support their work and see Fire Ecology Nexus to learn more.

Restore degraded forest areas in consultation with Indigenous groups. Forest restoration can help reverse the effects of deforestation and degradation and regain the social, ecological, and economic benefits of forests. Practices that restore degraded land include planting trees as part of agroforestry, regenerative agriculture, and reforestation. Here you can find an Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration Opportunities. Visit the Degraded Land Restoration Nexus page to learn more.

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