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Global campaign reaches goal of seven billion new trees, says UN agency

Global campaign reaches goal of seven billion new trees, says UN agency

The campaign to plant seven billion new trees in a bid to push governments into reaching agreement on a climate change pact in Copenhagen this December has achieved its goal, the United Nations announced today.

Today’s milestone was reached with the news that China has planted 2.6 billion trees as part of the campaign, bringing the total to 7.3 billion trees planted in 167 countries, according to a news release issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The campaign was launched in 2006 with the aim of planting seven billion trees by the end of this year, coinciding with the UN Climate Change Conference, which aims to draw up a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Seven billion trees, seven billion commitments to action and seven billion reasons why governments should be inspired to ‘seal the deal’ at the crucial UN climate change convention meeting in Copenhagen in less than 80 days’ time,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He noted that when the campaign was launched, there were those who said it could not be done. “But day after day and week after week, people have got out into their gardens, parks and cities and into the countryside and the rural areas to prove the doubters wrong,” he said.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement and the campaign’s co-patron, encouraged people to plant even more trees to celebrate today’s achievement.

“By making the Billion Tree Campaign such an incredible success, people from every continent are calling their governments to truly start caring for the planet and to find unity in the fight against climate change.”

Tree planting remains one of the most cost-effective ways to address climate change, according to UNEP. Trees and forests play a vital role in regulating the climate since they absorb carbon dioxide. Deforestation, in turn, accounts for over 20 per cent of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivalling 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, fibre, medicines and energy as well as soil fertility, water and biodiversity conservation.

The announcement of the milestone coincided with Global Climate Week, an event launched to mobilize global mass action around the UN high-level event on climate change which began in New York today.