Wavelets are extremely powerful to compress the information contained in finite-frequency sensitivity kernels and tomographic models. This interesting property opens the perspective of reducing the size of global tomographic inverse problems by one to two orders of magnitude. However, introducing wavelets into global tomographic problems raises the problem of computing fast wavelet transforms in spherical geometry. Using a Cartesian cubed sphere mapping, which grids the surface of the sphere with six blocks or ‘chunks’, we define a new algorithm to implement fast wavelet transforms with the lifting scheme. This algorithm is simple and flexible, and can handle any family of discrete orthogonal or bi-orthogonal wavelets. Since wavelet coefficients are local in space and scale, aliasing effects resulting from a parametrization with global functions such as spherical harmonics are avoided. The sparsity of tomographic models expanded in wavelet bases implies that it is possible to exploit the power of compressed sensing to retrieve Earth’s internal structures optimally. This approach involves minimizing a combination of a ℓ2 norm for data residuals and a ℓ1 norm for model wavelet coefficients, which can be achieved through relatively minor modifications of the algorithms that are currently used to solve the tomographic inverse problem.