Rio de Janeiro is falling behind on its promise to plant 24 million trees to offset the carbon emissions produced as a result of hosting the 2016 Olympic Games. According to the official counter, just 5.5 million have been planted, and time is running out to get the remaining trees planted before the end of 2015 deadline. Back in September 2012, State Environment Secretary Carlos Minc was so confident of reaching the goal of 24 million trees he increased the target to 34 million. But with less than two years remaining before the set deadline and little more than that until the start of the 2016 Olympic Games, it is looking more likely that this will be another ‘Olympic legacy’ left unrealized.
Of the trees to be planted, the majority are meant to be native trees to help restore Rio’s highly threatened yet biodiverse Mata Atlântica, or Atlantic Forest, that covers much of coastal and southern Brazil and which has been deforested to just 7% of its original coverage. Reforestation of degraded land is an expensive exercise, costing up to R$10,000-40,000 per hectare (all expenses included) over three years, according to Nicholas Locke, the President of REGUA, an association involved in reforestation of the Guapiaçu Valley in Rio state. It is unclear where the financing for this is going to come from, but the state has previously indicated that the effort would be a public-private partnership, with private companies providing R$500 million to meet environmental compensation requirements or as conditions for receiving environmental licensing.