United Nations peacekeepers planted nearly 600 trees in a botanical garden in Côte d’Ivoire over the weekend, a small but symbolic step in a project to combat climate change that has already surpassed its target of 7 billion trees – one for every person in the world.
The planting in the town of Bingerville follows a similar ceremony in neighbouring Liberia where UN blue helmets planted 1,000 trees earlier this year as part of the initiative launched by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to plant 7 billion trees by the end of 2009, a goal it reached in September.
With the destruction of natural forests emitting more greenhouse gases every year than the transport sector, planting trees – which absorb carbon dioxide and store nearly 300 gigatons of carbon in their biomass – provides a crucial defence in the fight against global warming.
Blue helmets have already planted nearly 30,000 saplings in 11 peacekeeping missions worldwide, in countries including Timor-Leste, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia and Lebanon.
The one-hectare lot in Bingerville botanical garden will now be known as ONUCI, the initials of the UN peacekeeping mission that has been stationed in Côte d’Ivoire since 2004 to help ensure a ceasefire and pave the way for permanent peace and democratic elections after civil war in 2002 split the West African country into a Government-ruled south and a rebel-controlled north.
Reauthorized repeatedly since then, most recently until 31 January 2010, it currently comprises nearly 8,400 uniformed personnel, as well as 407 international civilian staff.