Last year, smoke and ash from dozens of wildfires turned the skies above San Francisco an eerie red, and California wildfires burned millions of acres of land. Already this year, fires have charred close to 6 million acres across the U.S.

Climate Change is a Code Red for Humanity: UN Report

Wildfires — in my state of California and across the globe — are more frequent and increasing in severity with each passing year. And, extreme temperature fluctuations, dangerously high sea levels and devastating droughts are disrupting daily life and endangering communities across every continent.

As the U.N.’s latest climate report makes it clear, climate change is a code red for humanity. We can’t afford to wait for the next string of disasters to spur bold action on climate change. Every individual and institution — including the business community — should act urgently on behalf of our planet. Our generation has a massive opportunity to take bold action and shift the course of history.

To meet this challenge, business leaders must think holistically about the fight against climate change. To save our planet, we must sequester 100 gigatons of carbon through conserving, restoring and growing 1 trillion trees in partnership with initiatives like; protect our oceans; energize the ecopreneur revolution; and accelerate the world’s largest businesses to net zero. We achieve net zero emission by sequestering as much as we emit.

To do this, one of the most effective and affordable tools we have today is investing in our planet’s natural ecosystems — they not only capture carbon but protect our communities from the dangerous and very human impacts of the climate crisis.

Here are three impactful organizations that are prioritizing our planet’s natural ecosystems: 

The Nature Conservancy captures carbon by planting trees.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has made protecting natural ecosystems its mission and recently committed to planting 1 billion trees around the world. Trees, or nature-based solutions, are a powerful tool in the fight against climate change. Not only do they deliver many benefits to our everyday lives — like filtering clean air and purifying drinking water — but trees and other nature-based solutions help expand critical ecosystems and absorb carbon dioxide.

TNC also leads the Cumberland Forest Project, which preserves 253,000 acres of sweeping forest landscapes in Southwest Virginia and along the Kentucky and Tennessee border. This innovative project is structured as an investment fund, attracting private capital to conserve these forests at a greater scale and faster pace than ever before. These carefully managed forests have been enrolled in the California Carbon Market and aim to improve forest health while generating revenue to pay back conservation-minded investors. It stands as an example of the business opportunities available in the race to net zero.

The Cumberland Forest Project is TNC’s biggest project to date. Together, these three parcels will store millions of tons of carbon dioxide and connect one of North America’s most important migratory corridors for plant and animal species.

American Forests advocates for tree equity to increase well-being and slow climate change.

American Forests is on a mission for tree equity. Global average temperatures are rising, and longer and hotter heat waves lead to intensifying smog. Fewer trees mean more heat-related illnesses. Trees help cool neighborhoods, can create jobs and can increase air quality.

Earlier this year, American Forests launched its nationwide Tree Equity Scores, an indicator of whether a neighborhood has the right number of trees so all people experience the benefits that trees provide. What it found was that a map of tree cover in almost any American city is also a map of income. Simply put, lower-income neighborhoods usually don’t have as many trees.

According to a new American Forests study, we need to plant 31.4 million trees per year in cities to advance Tree Equity and slow climate change. In the U.S., urban forests account for about one-fifth of the captured and stored carbon emissions.

“We need to make sure the trees go where the people are,” said Jad Daley, president and chief executive officer of American Forests. “And more than 70% of the people live in cities or suburbs so, it’s a place-based problem with a place-based solution.”

Everyone deserves the benefits of trees.

Cities4Forests brings trees to urban landscapes through “reforestation hubs.”

Todd Gartner knows a thing or two about conservation. As director of both Cities4Forests and the World Resource Institute’s National Infrastructure Initiative, he has dedicated his career to conserving, managing and restoring forests, working landscapes, urban green infrastructure and other ecosystems.

Cities4Forests is working to create a world where cities and forests thrive together. According to the organization, 36 million trees come down in cities across the United States every year, resulting in economic losses of up to $786 million each year. That’s why they’ve embraced “reforestation hubs,” which are public-private partnerships that save cities money and generate revenue by diverting downed urban trees from landfills.

Thanks to the vibrant circular economy these reforestation hubs create, cities not only grow revenue and reduce waste, but they aid in mitigating climate change. Forests are critically important but they are also increasingly vulnerable, as we’ve witnessed from the growing threat of wildfires and other extreme weather. Cities4Forests is helping to diversify reforestation efforts by introducing more trees into urban environments — advancing public health through cleaner air and water, reducing respiratory diseases and decreasing heat for urban communities.

It takes all of us.

Innovative investments in natural resources like trees are an essential component of the world’s larger climate action strategy. Within that, we must use science-based advice to ensure trees are planted in the right places, by the right people, for the right reasons to better capture and absorb carbon.

Business leaders are uniquely positioned to make progress on nature-based solutions — we can fuel vital initiatives and encourage collaboration between corporations, government and NGOs. Collaborations like Global Citizen Live are already happening to enact change. Anyone can join the movement today and help green our planet by joining, planting trees in neighborhoods and backyards, and donating to organizations that protect our natural ecosystems. Let’s get to net zero faster, together.

Originally published by Forbes

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