Microsoft announces plans to invest millions in growing rainforests — here's why

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As deforestation threatens the health of planet Earth, Microsoft is stepping up to help regrow forests in Brazil, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Brazil’s BTG Pactual Timberland Investment Group has partnered with nonprofit Conservation International on a huge reforestation project that aims to plant trees on more than 333,592 acres of farmland in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna.

The project will cost $1 billion, of which Microsoft is funding an undisclosed portion in exchange for 8 million tons of carbon offset credits.

Carbon credits are under intense scrutiny, as some kinds of credits that were previously respected are now considered by many to be worthless.

The point of carbon credits is to prevent or undo carbon pollution, offsetting a company’s polluting activities.

The logic makes sense for activities that actively remove carbon from the atmosphere. But it’s more questionable when buyers receive credits for “protecting” existing forests that might or might not have been destroyed without intervention. The nonprofit Verra, which certifies carbon credits, came under fire recently for backing this dubious type of credit.

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However, there is real merit in projects that protect forests against clear and present threats or projects that plant trees, because trees remove tons of carbon pollution from the air during their life span. That carbon becomes part of the trunk, branches, and leaves — the tree is a tangible, physical repository of the contaminants it has cleaned from the air.

Trees help provide cleaner air for the world to breathe, while also cooling down the planet by removing heat-trapping gases.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has invested in planting trees. However, the WSJ reported that this deal is the largest of its kind. And Brazil is the perfect place for it, holding a huge part of the diminishing and endangered Amazon rainforest.

According to the WSJ, there are two parts to the project: Half the land will be used to grow native trees to stay there permanently, and the other half will grow trees to be harvested for timber. The timber is crucial to making the project work financially, and also, providing cultivated wood reduces the need to cut timber from wild forests.

“We carefully considered the role of commercial tree-planting in our decision to pursue this agreement with BTG,” Microsoft said, per the WSJ.

BTG TIG, Conservation International, and Microsoft are just some of the organizations trying to protect and regrow the Amazon. The president of Brazil is also making a huge difference in protecting forests and stopping deforestation.

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