Organisations and citizens are in a race against time to rapidly reduce their carbon footprint and reverse – or at least limit – the ravages of human-caused climate change.

As South Africa celebrates Arbor Week from 1 to 7 September, there has arguably never been greater importance in rehabilitating forest ecosystems damaged by industrial and human activity.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted a bleak picture of the toll human-caused climate change will have on the planet’s future, with very little time left to reduce emissions and limit changes in Earth’s climate.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face today, and it’s no longer enough to only do less harm,” says Sunil Geness, global sustainability lead for Africa at SAP. “There is an urgent need at a global level for organisations to act as exemplars that purposely do more good and, where possible, enable more sustainable practices through the design of their products and services.”

The IPCC report notes that 2,4-trillion tons of CO2 has been added to the Earth’s atmosphere since the mid-1800s, pushing average global temperatures up by 1.1C. The so-called carbon budget only has 400-billion tons of CO2 left, and considering global emissions amount to just over 40-billion tons, less than a decade remains for humanity to make serious and far-reaching changes to put it on a more sustainable path.

“Reforestation and biodiversity preservation are major contributors to global efforts at restoring ecosystems and limiting and repairing the damage caused by harmful human activities,” explains Geness. “African countries already bear witness to the devastating impact of a changing climate, and nowhere is this more evident than in Madagascar.”

Madagascar has been identified as one of the world’s top biodiversity conservation priority areas due to its high concentration of endemic species and its rapid habitat loss. The country is in the grip of its worst drought in four decades, which the UN World Food Programme recently said is leading to the world’s first “climate change famine”.