The campaign to plant seven billion trees has achieved its goal, the United Nations announced Tuesday.
7.3 billion trees have been planted in 167 countries since the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the initiative in 2006. The effort aimed to sequester vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere while generating benefits — including erosion control, biodiversity conservation, and agroforestry potential — for human populations as well as wildlife.
“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 in a statement.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement and a key partner in the campaign, said the massive reforestation project was an “incredible” achievement and that people around the world should continue planting trees.
Rubber plantation in Thailand
“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,” she said.
Reforestation, together with cutting deforestation and forest degradation, is expected to play an important role in a future climate agreement. Deforestation accounts for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing these emissions by protecting forests is seen as a cost-effective way to help hight climate change.
While reforestation offers many benefits, some environmentalists have criticized the counting of single-species tree plantations towards the 7-billion tree target. They instead prefer a diversity of species, ideally native types planted by local communities rather than industrial forestry companies and governments.