Nairobi, Kenya (May 14, 2008)- The UN’s campaign to plant one billion trees has been so successful that it was expanded Tuesday to become a Seven Billion Tree Campaign. In just 18 months, the original Billion Tree Campaign has inspired the planting of two billion trees, double its original target.
The effort is intended to avert rapid global warming by planting trees to absorb the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Deforestation accounts for over 20 percent of the carbon dioxide humans generate. Trees also keep precious rainwater from running off the land and shelter wildlife to combat the ongoing loss of biodiversity.
“When the Billion Tree Campaign was launched at the Climate Convention meeting in Nairobi in 2006, no one could have imagined it could have flowered so fast and so far. But it has given expression to the frustrations but also the hopes of millions of people around the world,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, which spearheaded the Billion Tree Campaign with the World Agroforestry Centre.
“In 2006 we wondered if a billion tree target was too ambitious; it was not,” Steiner said. “The goal of two billion trees has also proven to be an underestimate. The goal of planting seven billion trees – equivalent to just over a tree per person alive on the planet – must therefore also be do-able given the campaign’s extraordinary track record and the self-evident worldwide support.”
To date the initiative, which is under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Professor Wangari Maathai and Prince Albert II of Monaco, has broken every target set and has catalyzed tree planting in 155 countries.
Heads of state including the presidents of Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Turkey and Turkmenistan as well as businesses; cities; faith, youth and community groups have planted trees as part of the campaign. Individuals have accounted for over half of all participants.
The Ethiopian Millennium and the International Day of the African Child, Bole High School students celebrated the day by planting 150 trees. The Ethiopian Minister for Agriculture, representatives from UNICEF, UNEP and the European Union attended the event. (Photo courtesy UNEP)
Geographically, Africa is the leading region with over half of all the two billion trees planted. Regional and national governments organized the most massive plantings, with Ethiopia leading the count at 700 million, followed by Turkey at 400 million, Mexico at 250 million, and Kenya at 100 million trees planted.
To protect vulnerable shorelines, mangrove plantings were organized by PlanÃ¨te Urgence in Banda Aceh and other Indonesian provinces recovering from the December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
In the United States, the Replant New Orleans initiative sponsored a planting of fruit trees to rejuvenate the community struggling with the effects of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.
In a single day in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, 10.5 million trees were planted.
The two billionth tree was put into the ground as part of an agroforestry project carried out by the UN’s World Food Programme, WFP. As part of this campaign, the world’s largest food aid distribution agency has now planted 60 million trees in 35 countries to improve food security in the midst of a global food crisis.
In announcing the agency’s contribution to the Billion Tree Campaign, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, “WFP is concerned about rising costs of food and fuel which inevitably hit the bottom billion hardest. More people will require WFP assistance at a time when WFP’s current programmes are reaching fewer due to the critical funding gap created by rising costs.”
WFP has planted half the trees in Syria, Sheeran told the European Parliament Development Committee in December. “The eucalyptus trees are actually putting back water into the ground now after six years,” she said. “This kind of practical effect to protect food supply systems is very important. In fact, WFP has planted over five billion trees in the world in the past 30 years to protect delicate food ecosystems after a disaster or after a war.”
The tree-planting campaign has attracted the support of multilateral organizations including the Convention on Biological Diversity whose new Green Wave initiative was launched in advance of its conference being held in Bonn, Germany later this month.
“The Billion Tree Campaign has not only helped to mobilize millions of people to respond to the challenges of climate change, it has also opened the door, especially for the rural poor, to benefit from the valuable products and services the trees provide,” said Dennis Garrity, director general of the World Agroforestry Centre.
“Smallholder farmers could also benefit from the rapidly growing global carbon market by planting and nurturing trees,” Garrity suggested.
Tree planting remains one of the most cost-effective ways to address climate change. Trees and forests play a vital role in regulating the climate since they absorb carbon dioxide – containing an estimated 50% more carbon than the atmosphere. rivaling the emissions from other sources.
Trees also play a crucial role in providing a range of products and services to rural and urban populations, including food, timber, fiber, medicines and energy as well as soil fertility, water and biodiversity conservation.
The campaign has also generated significant appeal in post-conflict and post-disaster environments. In acting upon the words of the campaign’s patron Wangari Maathai “when we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope,” communities in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Liberia and Somalia contributed to the global effort with over two million trees.
The private sector pitched in as well, accounting for almost six percent of all trees planted. Multinational corporations including Bayer, Toyota, Yves Rocher, Accor Group of Hotels and Tesco Lotus supported the campaign, as did hundreds of medium and small-sized enterprises the world over.
“The Billion Tree Campaign is UNEP’s call to the nearly seven billion people sharing our planet today to take simple, positive steps to protect our climate,” said Steiner. “It is a defining issue of our era that can only be tackled through individual and collective action. I am convinced that the new target will be met – one tree at a time.”
UNEP Billion Tree Campaign
World Agroforestry Center
Billion Tree Campaign Flowers Into Seven Billion Tree Campaign- Environmental News Service