Plant a Billion Trees: People Worldwide Pledge to Fight Global Warming

Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign Takes Root and Begins to Grow

Parents and son (4-6) planting tree
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"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."
-- Greek proverb

A campaign to plant a billion trees in a single year was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2006. The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is intended to encourage people and organizations everywhere to take small but practical steps to reduce global warming, which many experts believe is the most important environmental challenge of the 21st century.

Get Involved, Take Action, Plant a Tree

Action does not need to be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is coordinating the campaign. Steiner noted that intergovernmental talks on tackling climate change can often be “difficult, protracted and sometimes frustrating, especially for those looking on” instead of participating directly.

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

A Prince and a Nobel Laureate Advocate Tree Planting

In addition to the UNEP, the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is backed by Kenyan environmentalist and politician Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004; Prince Albert II of Monaco; and the World Agroforestry Centre-ICRAF.

According to the 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 more trees will restore lost habitat, preserve biodiversity, and help to mitigate the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby helping to slow or reduce global warming.

Billions of Trees Must Be Planted to Restore Lost Forests

To make up for the loss of trees over the past decade, 130 million hectares (or 1.3 million square kilometers), an area as large as Peru, would have to be reforested. Accomplishing that would mean planting about 14 billion trees every year for 10 years in a row, the equivalent of every person on Earth planting and caring for at least two seedlings annually. 

“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,” 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 said.

Other actions people can take to help mitigate or reduce climate change include driving less, switching off lights in empty rooms, and turning off electrical appliances rather than leaving them on standby. For example, it is estimated that if everyone in the United Kingdom switched off TV sets and other appliances instead of leaving them on standby, it would save enough electricity to power close to 3 million homes for a year.

The idea for the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Wangari Maathai. When representatives of a corporate group in the United States told her they were planning to plant a million trees, she said: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.”

Take the Pledge and Plant a Tree

The campaign encourages people and organizations around the world to enter pledges on a website hosted by the UNEP. The campaign is open to everyone—concerned citizens, schools, community groups, nonprofit organizations, farmers, businesses, and local and national governments. A 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 backyard. Advice on choosing and planting trees is availablethrough the website.