A multinational pharmaceutical company has pledged to plant 25 million trees somewhere in Australia, though who will do the digging has yet to be decided.
British-based AstraZeneca plans to plant 50 million trees in the Asia Pacific region over the next five years in an ambitious project to offset its carbon emissions.
Promised last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the reforestation is part of the company’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025, and carbon negative – removing more carbon than it emits – in a decade.
Australia’s recent catastrophic bushfires have made it an ideal candidate for the planting.
Liz Chatwin, president of AstraZeneca’s Australia and New Zealand division, said the “momentous devastation” is only part of the reason.
The other is that company chief executive, Frenchman Pascal Soriot, has family in Australia and holds it “dear to his heart”, Ms Chatwin told AAP.
Mr Soriot and AstraZeneca’s chair Leif Johansson will be in Sydney later on Friday to plant the first three of 25 million trees.
They are also in town to announce a $200 million investment in AstraZeneca’s western Sydney manufacturing facility which, the company says, will increase its exports to $4.4 billion during the next four years.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will join the company heads at the tree planting ceremony, together with federal environment minister Sussan Ley.
Britain’s foreign minister is on a flying visit down under, his first port of call following the end of Brexit and he has voiced his hope for a free trade deal between the two nations.
Ms Chatwin said the pharmaceutical giant would of course support any discussions on a free trade deal. But she denied the company had timed the event for Mr Raab’s visit, saying it was “purely a serendipitous coincidence”.
As for the reforestation, there is “a lot of planning” that still needs to be done.
“Discussions are still ongoing with local organisations because we want to use the expertise and resource of local people,” Ms Chatwin said.
“We’re not the experts in this – 25 million is a lot of trees – it depends on the variety, the land that’s chosen and being sensitive to existing flora and fauna.”