UNEP launches 7 billion tree campaign

Posted: 21 May 2008

A worldwide tree planting drive to help tackle the challenge of climate change, has now set its sights on planting seven billion trees. It follows the news that the Billion Tree Campaign has, in just 18 months, encouraged the planting of two billion trees, double its original target.

The campaign, led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), was launched in 2006 as a response to global warming, water shortages and the loss of species.

Maasai planting a tree
Maasai planting a tree
A Maasai planting a tree on Earth Day in Kenya.
Under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Professor Wangari Maathai and Prince Albert II of Monaco, it has broken every target set so far and resulted in tree planting in over 150 countries.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said: "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".

"We are now calling on individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organisations and governments to evolve this initiative onto a new and even higher level by the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen in late 2009," he said.

Heads of State including the presidents of Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Turkey and Turkmenistan as well cities; faith, youth and community groups have taken part. Individuals have accounted for over half of all participants.

In a single day in Uttar Pradesh, India, 10.5 million trees were planted. In Turkey, 35 million young people have planted trees. And in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK, 500,000 schoolchildren have become involved.

UNEP says 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 per cent more carbon than the atmosphere. Deforestation, in turn, accounts for over 20 per cent of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivalling the emissions from other sources.

Tree planting, India
Tree planting, India
Tree planting under the Indian East Coast Research and Development Programme. Photo © UNEP
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 two billionth tree was put into the ground as part of an agroforestry project carried out by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP). It now planted 60 million trees in 35 countries to improve food security.

Geographically, Africa has seen over half of all tree plantings. Regional and national governments organized the most massive plantings, with Ethiopia leading the count at 700 million, followed by Turkey (400 million), Mexico (250 million), and Kenya (100 million).

The Billion Tree Campaign web site with is at www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign and at www.worldagroforestry.org