A technology-driven reforestation company that is breathing life into arid land by re-growing forests will deliver a fundamental message of how to restore nature to Cop28.
With its headquarters in the Netherlands, Land Life works with companies, local communities and non-government associations and has planted more than nine million trees on degraded land in projects in Spain, the United States, Cameroon and Australia.
Degraded land is the term given to land that has lost some of its natural productivity as a result of human processes.
“Lots of people can tell you how many trees they have planted, but not so many can tell you how many trees are still alive today,” Rebekah Braswell, chief executive of Land Life, told The National.
The start-up company's mission is to work with others to restore more than two billion hectares of degraded land globally – an area approximately the size of the United States and China put together.
It aims to reforest land that has no hope of natural regeneration due to extreme weather conditions, overgrazing or deforestation.
“We have set out a bold ambition around nature restoration, recognising that this is only done through partnerships, sharing of information and technology," she said.
“NGOs doing tree-planting projects want to increase the survival rates because a lot of trees don’t make it, especially on arid land where tree mortality is quite high.
“We developed the cocoon technology to establish tree seedlings and give them the best chance of survival – the best leg-up in nature.”
The company has devised a special coating to protect seeds and a protective guard made from recycled cartons that ensures water retention and prevents evaporation.
Technology apps and drones track the health of the saplings and monitor data through every season.
Native plants are used to boost soil recovery with eucalyptus planted in Australia, almonds in Spain, birch in Iceland and fir trees in Mexico.'
Rebuilding after a wildfire
In a year when temperature records were shattered and wildfires ravaged land across Europe and North America, the issue of land degradation has risen in importance.
“I hold my breath through every wildfire season, just hoping that everything goes OK,” Ms Braswell said.
“Wildfire has become a reality for a lot of communities and has unfortunately made climate change more tangible around the globe.”
Rebuilding can take years, requires detailed assessments and working with homeowners near forest land.
Among its global projects, the team is working in Colorado to restore forest land devastated in 2018 by one of the state’s worst fires.
“A fire that burns for a couple of days can wipe out infrastructure and nature that can take decades to regenerate – that is the real challenge we face,” she said.
“We lose things in minutes that take us so much longer to recreate.
“If truly bad, a wildfire also destroys seed regeneration, so some form of human intervention is going to be required.”
Ms Braswell said people are gradually understanding why restoring nature is vital.
“Sometimes climate change can feel so abstract and it’s hard to connect people to it,” she said.
“But we can already see the impact of climate change – it’s not something that is coming in 20 years, communities have already been affected and will be further affected.
“Regenerating landscapes not only stabilises the soil, it brings back parts of nature that give us joy, hope and confidence.”
The start-up aims to partner with groups by sharing knowledge of planting trees at scale.
“We are hoping to encourage other Land Lifes to pop up and have other organisations involved in nature restoration to use the technologies we have developed to make it more efficient and more scalable,” she said.
Hopes for Cop28
The company has been attending Cop summits since 2019.
“It’s important for us to go to Cop so we can explain what it means to restore nature and what type of impact that can create,” Ms Braswell said.
“It’s about connecting to people who are interested in taking climate action.”
A founding member of Land Life, Ms Braswell previously worked in the food security sector in the Middle East and lived in Dubai for eight years.
“It exposed me to the issue of land degradation, the need to protect and restore land so when there is a crisis there is enough for everyone and we have robust ecosystems to help support our population and our families,” she said.
The hope is for Cop28 in Dubai to implement pledges made at previous summits.
“What keeps me coming back to Cop is the appreciation that real global negotiations are taking place,” she said.
“This isn’t just a talking heads conference, you feel you are contributing.”
Cop talks in the UAE will involve a global stocktake to assess how countries are measuring up to the goals of the 2015 Paris deal.
Climate experts hope for clarity on who will administer a loss and damage fund for countries affected by climate change and resolving questions on which nations would receive finance.
“We really need to keep that focus, intention and pressure on implementation – companies, countries, governments and communities as a whole to reduce their CO2 footprint and our emissions to keep global warming below 1.5°C so we can avoid a complete disaster,” she said.
“We can see the impact of damage across the globe, especially this past summer.
“What we need is investing in regeneration and that is the side of the fence we sit on.”