Billion Tree Campaign (UNEP)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments are encouraged to enter tree planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007.

Message from His Serene Highness Albert II
Sovereign Prince of Monaco

Billion Tree Campaign patron, His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, has a keen interest in the world’s environment and in issues related to sustainable development. In his inaugural speech of 12 July 2005, he listed environment as a top governmental priority, urging citizens’ responsibility in respecting, nurturing and protecting the environment. As a prominent environment advocate, HSH Albert II undertook an exploratory expedition to Spitsbergen in the Arctic to draw attention to global warming and help to better understand the realities of climate change and pollution and their consequences on animal and plant life. On 27 February 2006, Monaco ratified the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, committing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases. Monaco has also started to organize carbon-neutral events. HSH Prince Albert II has launched initiatives to combat air and marine pollution, protect biodiversity and save marine life, and has established the Albert II Foundation to provide a permanent source of dynamic and novel action for environmental protection.

It is with great pleasure that I have accepted to be a Patron for the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign launched by UNEP. I am particularly honoured to be associated with the Founder, Mrs. Wangari Maathai, whose involvement, in the process of reforestation, has been and continues to be, inspirational. I wish to congratulate Mrs. Maathai and send her my best wishes.

I would like to share with you a fond memory of precisely 30 years ago, when young Monegasque students began the 1st plantation of trees on the mountainside surrounding the Principality. Today, these students, now adults, return with their own children to this area to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the very trees they planted. To plant a tree for future generations is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol, of sustainable development.

The 2007 aim of the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is to create an unprecedented mobilization in favour of the environment. This will encourage and coordinate the initiatives of planting local species, initiated by governments, NGOs, communities and even children.

We are all aware of the catastrophic consequences of deforestation on climate, biodiversity and water. An example, 32 million acres of forest, equivalent to the size of England, are destroyed each year, for short-term profits thus depriving the planet of a vital lung, which is necessary for the climatic balance. It is also necessary for the conservation of biodiversity, the preservation of the soils, the fight against erosion and the preservation of water reserves. The plantation and natural expansion of the forest represents less than 14 million acres. We are facing an emergency and we must invert this trend.

Tree plantation, and globally, reforestation play a key role in reducing pressure on the primary forest and preserving the original habitat, in limiting the effects of erosion, in absorbing CO² and thus reducing the global warming process. And finally, preserving biodiversity and the natural habitat of numerous vegetal and animal species. The tropical forest provides the habitat of more than half of all known vegetal and animal species.

The objectives pursued by the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign are in concordance with my own beliefs and with the initiatives I have recently taken by creating the “Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation” which is dedicated to environment and sustainable development. The Foundation’s aim is to become an initiative and project multiplier in the areas of climate change, biodiversity and water.

For numerous years the Government of Monaco has consciously been replanting operations, at the local and community level as well as at the international level. The Government has signed a new three-year convention for the replanting and reforestation in Lebanon. In this regard, 865 acres have been replanted and by 2008 we are considering to replant an additional 500 acres. The Government of Monaco has also initiated a cooperation program with Chile to replant 200 acres of trees.

In conclusion, I believe in the symbolic strength of the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign and I sincerely hope it will meet our expectations, far beyond the welfare linked to replanting trees, to benefit future generations.

2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai

Billion Tree Campaign patron Professor Wangari Maathai is Africa’s foremost environmental campaigner, internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. In 2004, the Nobel Prize Committee recognized her lifelong commitment to environmental sustainability and the empowerment of women by awarding her the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1977, Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. In the past three decades, the movement has grown into a dramatic force for change. Along the way, nearly 900,000 rural women have worked to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation. Now an international campaign, the Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees throughout Africa.

 

Born in Nyeri in 1940, Wangari Muta Maathai received her education in Kenya and the USA from where she earned a Bachelor from Mt. St. Scholastica College and a Masters from the University of Pittsburgh. She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, obtaining it from the University of Nairobi in 1971, where she also taught veterinary anatomy. She chaired the National Council of Women of Kenya from 1981 to 1987. Her campaign against land grabbing and the illegal allocation of forest land has made her a national heroine.

 

In December 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya’s parliament and appointed Assistant Minister for environment and natural resources. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Maathai has been awarded UNEP’s Global 500 Award, the Goldman Environment Prize and the Sophie Prize, among others.

 

“What I have learned over the years is that we must be patient, persistent, and committed. When we are planting trees sometimes people will say to me, ‘I don’t want to plant this tree, because it will not grow fast enough’. I have to keep reminding them that the trees they are cutting today were not planted by them, but by those who came before. So they must plant the trees that will benefit communities in the future.”

 

Wangari Maathai, Unbowed: One Woman’s Story

Executive Director – United Nations Environment Programme

A Call to Action

We have but a short time to avert damaging and economically debilitating climate change. We also have all the economic, intellectual and technological know-how to head off this calamity and avoid the disruption and misery that inaction would entail.
The solutions are numerous and, as many economists say, affordable when compared with the costs of complacency. These range from energy saving measures and clean and renewable energy sources, to more efficient transport and better planning and management of our economies. We also know that the way we harvest natural resources has a big part to play. In this respect, the way we utilise and sustainably manage our forests can take a central and pivotal role.

Historically, forests have all too often been viewed simply as abundant sources of timber for activities like construction, ship building or fuel. However, the wider importance of these ecosystems is now increasingly understood. Reports such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment make clear that the goods and services provided by forests are worth billions if not trillions of dollars to the global economy. They range from goods and services linked with water supplies, with stabilization of soils, with purifying the air we breathe, with sustaining biodiversity, and with tourism, to providing genetic resources and natural medicines. Forests are also natural and economically important ‘sinks’, sequestrating carbon from the atmosphere and locking it away in trunks and branches.

Economics cannot capture all the benefits forests provide — from the beauty and spiritual value of the old and cherished village tree, the much-loved and productive community woodland, to the vast monumental and mystical tropical rainforest. But we know these are important too.

Globally, forest cover is at least one-third less than what it once was. It is time to reverse the trends, it is time to act.

Sustainably managing ancient and old-growth forests and avoiding deforestation must be our watchwords. Old growth and pristine forests are the natural world’s equivalents of the human world’s great edifices, sculptures and old masters. However, it is also in our wider interests to restore, reforest and recapture the lost and degraded forest and woodland ecosystems that have, all too often, fallen to short-term and narrow economic interests.

The Kyoto Protocol and its flexible mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, provide formal, legally binding ways of achieving some of these wider forest and climate-related goals. UNEP fully supports them. However, voluntary initiatives also offer an important focus for our mutual and even broader environmental, economic and social concerns, alongside a way of ensuring that the coming years achieve a decisive victory in the fight against climate change.

The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is an engine for these voluntary expressions of solidarity. It is inclusive and is open to everyone — from governments and businesses, to community groups and individuals. The Billion Tree Campaign is but an acorn, but it can also be a significant and straightforward expression of our common determination to make a tangible difference in developing and developed countries alike.

We have a short time to avert serious climate change. It gives new impetus to the sayings of a Chinese poet. The author lived 2,500 years ago but the sentiments echo down the ages to all of us facing the challenges of today: “If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree.”

Climate change confronts us now. There is no longer conjecture or debate around an abstract or hypothetical future. We need action. We need to plant trees 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.

 

Achim Steiner
Executive Director
United Nations Environment Programme

 

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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