UNEP's Goal: One Billion Trees Planted in 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya, November 10, 2006 (ENS) - A new global campaign to plant one billion trees in 2007 was launched at the UN climate conference this week, backed by the woman who has won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees - Kenya's Assistant Environment Minister Wangari Maathai.

Professor Maathai said the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign encourages people to "take small but practical steps to combat what is probably the key challenge of the 21st century."

Trees absorb the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, but widespread deforestation in Kenya and across the world has allowed more CO2 to remain in the atmosphere. Planting trees is expected to help absorb the blanket of CO2 that is holding the Sun's heat close to the planet.

Maathai

Wangari Maathai introduces the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign at the UN climate conference. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin, ENB)
Maathai said, "When we are planting trees sometimes people will say to me, 'I don't want to plant this tree, because it will not grow fast enough'. I have to keep reminding them that the trees they are cutting today were not planted by them, but by those who came before. So they must plant the trees that will benefit communities in the future."

The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, is backed also by Prince Albert of Monaco, who called Maathai's reforestation efforts "inspirational."

Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Monaco (Photo courtesy Government of Monaco)
"To plant a tree for future generations is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol of sustainable development," said the prince.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is front and center as Multiple Contact Groups and Informals from around the world convene this week during the ongoing Twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention and second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The meetings are being held through November 17 at the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

Steiner said he sees the tree planting campaign as action that does not get bogged down innegotiations.

“Intergovernmental talks on addressing climate change can often be difficult, protracted and sometimes frustrating," he said, "especially for those looking on, but we cannot and must not lose heart."

“We have but a short time to avert serious climate change. We need action," Steiner said.

Steiner

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner says treeplanting is a direct action that anyone can take that will help to cool the climate. (Photo courtesy ENB)
He says the tree planting campaign will "send a signal to the corridors of political power across the globe that the watching and waiting is over — that countering climate change can take root via one billion small but significant acts in our gardens, parks, countryside and rural areas."

Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people and entities from around the world are encouraged to enter pledges on a website www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign.

The responsibility for tree planting will lie with the person or organization making the pledge onthe campaign website. All contributing participants to the Billion Tree Campaign will receive a certificate of involvement.

Tree planters will be encouraged to follow up online so UNEP can verify that the trees have survived, in partnership with recognized certification mechanisms. The website will record the ongoing tally of pledges, and also publish photos and accounts from registered campaign members of what they have achieved.

Maathai

Wangari Maathai plants a tree at the Outspan Hotel, Nyeri, Kenya, to mark the launch of her autobiography, "Unbowed." September 9, 2006. (Photo by Wanjira Mathai courtesy GreenBelt Movement)
The campaign identifies four key areas for planting - degraded natural forests and wilderness areas; farms and rural landscapes; sustainably managed plantations; and urban environments, but it can also begin with a single tree in a back garden.

The World Agroforestry Centre-ICRAF will provide advice on tree planting on the website, as well as information about reforestation and other tree-related issues.

Dennis Garrity, ICRAF director general said, “the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is a superb initiative by UNEP to link people, trees and the environment."

"The 500 million smallholder farmers in the tropics stand to benefit tremendously from the greater recognition, appreciation and promotion of the right trees in the right places," he said, "so that such trees may transform both lives and landscapes."

Expanding tree cover on denuded lands will reduce pressures on remaining primary forests, helping to preserve habitats and to safeguard the Earth’s biological diversity, UNEP points out. It will also mitigate the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Rainforests cover only seven percent of the land on Earth but they contain nearly half of all the world's trees and generate about 40 percent of the world's oxygen.

In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of CO2 and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year, UNEP says, and one hectare of trees can absorb six metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

“The Billion Tree Campaign is but an acorn," said Steiner hopefully, "but it can also be practically and symbolically a significant expression of our common determination to make a difference in developing and developed countries alike."