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BiodiversityClimate ChangeConservationEnvironmentNatureSustainable Development

Regrow Borneo and leadership in the face of the climate crisis

26 July 2019

We’ve been asking ourselves what we can do to tackle climate change. Earlier this year, the Welsh Government and Cardiff University’s student body, through the Students’ Union, declared a climate emergency.

It’s right that Cardiff University should be setting an example, as an educator of future generations, to demonstrate leadership in the face of the climate crisis.

The higher education sector has a responsibility to reduce air travel – academics are frequent flyers, and flying emits a large amount of carbon to the atmosphere.

Launching in September, Regrow Borneo will allow Cardiff University staff and students to donate to our reforestation project in Borneo to help balance out carbon emissions from their flights.

Regrow Borneo is a collaborative project between the Sustainable Places Research Institute and Danau Girang Field Centre, Borneo. Using donations to the project, we will plant trees in the Lower Kinabatangan, an area of extreme beauty declared as Sabah’s ‘Gift to the World’.

Despite legal protection the area has lost a devastating 75% of its tropical forest since the early 1970s, largely due to the expansion of oil palm. Deforestation has fragmented the forest, reducing the available habitat for endangered species such as the Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey and the Pygmy Elephant.

Regrow Borneo aligns with fly less objectives and supports a shift towards travel alternatives. However, simply reducing air travel is not enough; we know that some flights are unavoidable.

We have calculated an air travel carbon budget for Cardiff University and found that international students, taking unavoidable long haul flights to study in Wales, contribute to 53% of the University’s carbon budget.

Cardiff University staff and students emit a minimum of 28,000 tonnes of carbon through air travel each year and we aim to help balance these emissions by planting trees in the Lower Kinabatangan, Borneo. The project will be funded through charitable donations, and every penny received will be invested in local community-based reforestation initiatives.

We encourage everyone to carefully consider whether their flight is absolutely necessary. But if it is, a donation to Regrow Borneo will help mitigate the impact. We’ll provide a map with suggested donation amounts to help you decide what might be appropriate, based on how far you fly.

The project will link with Cardiff University research by monitoring the carbon sequestration power of tropical forest. We’ll also inform our donors on the number of trees planted, along with other updates.

Regrow Borneo offers an opportunity for Cardiff University to work at the forefront of sustainability science, becoming the first UK-based university to set up a scheme that helps balance their carbon emissions.

We want to do our part to tackle the climate emergency – but we can’t restore the rainforest without your help. For more information and to find out about opportunities to be involved, please email


  1. Ken Weston

    Living in Sarawak and Sabah you, don’t have any option but to fly to get off and around the island and to get to East Malaysia and nearby surrounding countries we are not served by ferries or ships.

    I think a more realistic approach would be to target the airlines that are serving the island for to support a replanting scheme rather paying millions to have their aeroplanes decorated in Premiership football teams and other multinationals advertising than the traveller’s who is not in the position to use any other alternative means to get around.

    I fully endorse what you are trying to do but the problems go deeper than aircraft emissions.

    Unristricted and uncontrolled oil Palm plantations, deliberate slash and burn policies in Indonesia, illegal logging and corruption has long been a very big problem across Borneo,

    Borneo has Lost 30 Percent of Its Forest in the Past 40 Years and 50% in the last 60 years
    Borneo’s tropical forests have been felled at twice the rate as the rest of the world’s a few replacement trees are never going to replace the Rainforest, Wildlife and flora species that’s already been lost forever.

    • Alys Morris

      Thank you for your comment. We’d really like to target airlines that are serving the island to support Regrow Borneo.

      Limiting climate change requires substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, of which emissions related to flying contribute to. Options to limit air travel emissions by reducing the distance travelled, switching travel model and using alternative modes of communication are always preferred. However, sometimes individuals will have to fly, whether this is for work or for leisure. An individual will be able to determine how essential their air travel is.

      Regrow Borneo was created to help reduce the impact of CO2 emitted during air travel. However, Regrow Borneo accepts donations from any organisation and any individual who may want to balance the carbon they produce by flying or donate to a cause that will help improve biodiversity and sustain local livelihoods in Borneo.

      We agree that often the problem goes deeper than aircraft emissions. October 2019 – October 2020 will be a pilot year to test value of donations and project structures. We will encourage donations when individuals fly. When we meet our target donations we will begin our reforestation project within the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. We have nurseries of native tree species ready to plant.

      If we succeed in our pilot year we may look at expanding Regrow Borneo to tackle other issues.

  2. Ian

    Hi. This looks like an excellent idea, and should be something that could be spread far beyond Cardiff. What control does the project have over the land that is planted up? Who owns the land? Will the forest be managed in perpetuity?

    • Alys Morris

      Thanks, we hope the project spreads far beyond Cardiff. Any land replanted will be in areas of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary or within the Forest Reserves. Danau Girang Field Centre will be responsible for identifying priority areas that we can help restore. These areas provide protected enforcement. We currently have two sites: one that would enhance connectivity (Sawit Kinabalu) and one that is going to focus on some highly degraded peatland area within Pin Supu FR.

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