Global perspective Human stories

Campaign to plant a billion trees within a year launched at UN climate change conference

Campaign to plant a billion trees within a year launched at UN climate change conference

Steiner (R) and Wangari Maathai at campaign launch
A campaign to plant a billion trees within a year was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, today in a bid to encourage all sectors of society, from concerned citizens to philanthropic corporations, to take small but practical steps to combat what is probably the key challenge of the 21st century.

“Action does not need to be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, noting that intergovernmental talks on tackling climate change can often be difficult, protracted and sometimes frustrating, especially for those looking on.

“But we cannot and must not lose heart,” he added. “The campaign, which aims to plant a minimum of 1 billion trees in 2007, offers a direct and straight-forward path down which all sectors of society can step to contribute to meeting the climate change challenge.”

The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, backed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Green Belt Movement activist Wangari Maathai, Prince Albert II of Monaco and the World Agroforestry Centre-ICRAF, is being coordinated by UNEP.

Rehabilitating tens of millions of hectares of degraded land and reforesting the Earth is necessary to restore the productivity of soil and water resources, and expanding tree cover will mitigate the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a global warming greenhouse gas.

To make up for the loss of trees in the past decade, 130 million hectares, or 1.3 million square kilometres, an area as large as Peru, would have to be reforested, amounting to planting some 14 billion trees every year for 10 consecutive years.

“The Billion Tree Campaign is but an acorn, 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,” Mr. Steiner said. “We have but a short time to avert serious climate change. We need action.

“We need to plant trees alongside other concrete community-minded actions and in doing so 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,” he added.

Other actions include less driving, switching off lights in empty rooms and turning off electrical appliances rather than leaving them on standby. If everyone in the United Kingdom switched off rather than left TV sets and other appliances on standby it is estimated it would save enough electricity to power close to 3 million homes for a year.

The idea for the campaign was inspired by Ms. Maathai. When a corporate group in the United States told her it was planning to plant a million trees, she replied: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.”

People and entities from around the world are encouraged to enter pledges on a web site The campaign is open to all – individuals, children and youth groups, schools, community groups, non-governmental organizations, farmers, private sector organizations, local authorities, and national governments. Each pledge can be anything from a single tree to 10 million trees.

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. Advice on tree planting will be made available via the website.