Groundswell of Support from Communities, Citizens and Kindegartens to Governments and Corporations Makes Climate Change Pledge a Reality
Nairobi, 22 May 2007—A promise to plant a billion trees as one unique response to the global climate change challenge has been met, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.
Following a pledge of 20 million trees by Senegal, the five month-old Billion Tree Campaign has surpassed its initial goal some seven months ahead of its original target.
Organizers, which also include the Green Belt Movement and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) have been astonished at the international enthusiasm for the campaign with people aged 5 years-old to 80, drawn from developing and developed countries, joining forces with communities, kindergartens, scouts groups, schools, universities, artists, city councils, companies and countries to achieve the initial goal.
The campaign, announced at the recent climate change convention conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, now switches to turning the pledges into one billion plantings by the end of the year.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said:”2007 will go down as the year of full stops in respect to the climate change debate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put a full stop behind the science—climate change is happening; a full stop behind the impacts—they are underway and will impact on every corner of the planet, and a full stop behind the economics—tackling climate change will cost just 0.1 of annual GDP, perhaps less”.
“The other big question has been whether the public is ready, whether it is politically possible to mobilize individuals, communities and nations en masse to counter the rise in greenhouse gases. The Billion Tree Campaign gives us the final full stop on this debate too”, he said.
“Countries and communities as well as corporations and individual citizens across the developed and developing world have responded to the challenge with grassroots enthusiasm and commitment. It should empower governments everywhere in the sure and certain knowledge that addressing climate change is not a political risk but perhaps the most popular move of our time, with their electorate and the public right behind them,” added Mr. Steiner.
He was speaking on the International Day for Biological Diversity coordinated by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Mr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity made the following comment: "Reversing the unprecedented loss of biodiversity of our planet requires unprecedented efforts at all levels. Achieving the target of the Billion Tree Campaign on the occasion of the International Day on Biodiversity is a remarkable success. It is living testimony of the resolve of the international community to redouble efforts to address the intertwined planetary environmental threats of biodiversity loss and climate change. Planting a tree is a celebration of our connection with Mother Nature. It is also an act of hope. Each citizen of our planet must nurture and cherish nature for an ever better quality of life on Earth. I applaud this one billion milestone and express the hope that the planting of six billion trees could be achieved at next year’s celebration of the International Day on Biodiversity, as a contribution to the Johannesburg target of significantly reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010."
This year’s theme is Biodiversity and Climate Change and comes just weeks after the release of a series of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which also highlight the challenges facing biodiversity -- and by inference livelihoods and human well- being -- as a result of the build up of greenhouse gases.
The IPCC states, for example, that tourism in Africa, much of which is based on nature, is likely to be hard hit, with 25 per cent to 40 per cent of animal species such as zebra in the national parks of sub-Saharan Africa set to become endangered
Over a third of turtle breeding sites in the Caribbean may be lost if sea levels rise by 0.5 meters. Islands with moist cloud forests, like Hawaii, can expect to suffer a loss of endemic bird species.
In the Arctic thinning and reduced coverage of sea ice is likely to have important knock on effects. Crustaceans, adapted for life at the sea ice edge, are an important food for seals and polar cod. Narwhal also depend on sea-ice organisms. (For more climate and biodiversity impacts on Africa and other regions see notes to editors)
Wangari Maathai—the Inspiration
The original inspiration for the Billion Tree Campaign came from its co-patron, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai.
Indeed, the first pledge of 2 million trees was put forward by the Green Belt Movement environmentalist who has been tireless in supporting the Billion Tree Campaign.
Today, she recalled a recent conference of African and Spanish women held in Madrid: “I challenged participants to advocate for the creation of a green belt across the Sahara Desert from Dakar to Djibouti, as part of the Billion Tree Campaign. Such an effort would contribute towards slowing down the desertification processes that are hastening the southern expansion of the Sahara desert”.
“I am quite sure that, with the support of the African Heads of States whose countries border the Sahara Desert, we could achieve this goal. We need to empower communities along the route and persuade them to both plant and be the caretakers of the trees to ensure that they survive. This is our dream, come be part of the dream and the Billion Tree Campaign”, added Professor Maathai, also founder of the Green Belt Movement.
“The Campaign was among the positive outcomes of the last climate change conference held here in Nairobi at the end of 2006. The first phase has been met, now we need these pledges translated into one billion trees on the ground. In doing so, the campaign will not only contribute to addressing climate change by utilizing the ability of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere but a range of other pressing issues from soil stabilization and watershed management to improved prospects for wildlife, agriculture and tourism,” she added.
Prince Albert II of Monaco—Co-Patron and committed environmentalist
The other patron is HSH Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco. He advocated for the campaign and planted trees in January 2007 in Cap-d’Ail and La Turbie (France), in areas devastated by summer forest fires. “As a Head of State, when accepting to become a patron for the campaign, I wanted to lead the way and catalyze mobilization for tree planting in all regions of the world,” he said.
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) —Indispensable Scientific Partner
Dennis Garrity, ICRAF’s Director, added: “It is with profound pride, and some amazement, that the World Agroforestry Centre joins with the Billion Tree Campaign partners to celebrate the early attainment of successful pledges to plant one billion trees for the planet.
“It is simply thrilling that so many individuals, organizations and governments from around the world have responded with such vigorous commitment. Humans have evolved through the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. I do believe that perhaps we are now entering the Tree Age!” he added.
“It will take nearly 15 years to add another one billion to the human population. But the Billion Tree Campaign has established an extra one billion trees to benefit that billion people in a little over 15 weeks. Describing this achievement as remarkable is an understatement,” said Mr. Garrity.
“UNEP and all involved should be heartily congratulated on how they have helped the world realize that trees on small-holder farms are an increasingly critical solution to climate change, biodiversity loss, and vulnerable livelihoods. To put it simply, Agroforestry is saving the world one tree at a time,” he added.
The Billion Tree Campaign was announced on 8 November 2006 at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Conference and initiated in January 2007.
Along with Senegal, the pledging target of one billion has also been surpassed with the promise of 30 million trees from Uganda communicated to UNEP by His Excellency Hon. Professor Semakula Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development. It brings the total pledges to one billion and 12 million trees, of which over 13.5 million have been planted.
Notes to Editors
The Billion Tree Campaign, which operates through a unique and dedicated interactive web site, demonstrates that a concrete people-centred initiative can be an incentive for positive and immediate environmental action.
There was an unprecedented movement and mobilization for tree planting at the community level and in cities, from Belo Horizonte in Brazil to Tokyo in Japan.
Photographs, letters and a welter of emails were received by UNEP from thousands of participants—aged 5 years-old to 80 years-old-- who demonstrated commitment to take action to regenerate the environment and address climate change.
Artists and creators from around the world displayed their creativity to support the campaign. Billboards on the campaign appeared alongside roads, in airports and in the Parisian metro.
Tree planting pledges have been made by governments in countries such as Cameroon, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Israel, Japan, the Maldives, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar, Senegal, South Korea, Turkey, Uganda and Venezuela. They were facilitated by the Permanent Representatives to UNEP, many of whom went to also plant trees around Nairobi.
Several private sector companies, United Nations agencies and the World Bank teamed up with UNEP to catalyze further involvement in the campaign. Foundations, the scouts movement, and thousands of NGOs started advertising the campaign, through their own means, thus catalyzing further interest. Thousands of blogs have featured the campaign, which also assisted in spreading the word.
An exchange forum has been put on line today to enable participants to volunteer time, expertise, funding, or provide land and seedlings under the Billion Tree Campaign project.
IPCC Facts and Figures on Climate Change and Biodiversity if Greenhouse Gas Emissions are not Curbed-Working Group II 4th Assessment 2007
- Pacific Islands are likely to be a greater risk of invasion by the invasive sim weed. American Samoa could see a 50 per cent loss of mangroves with an anticipated 12 per cent reduction in 15 other Pacific islands.
- In Latin America and the Caribbean, there is a risk of significant species extinctions in many tropical areas including in sites facing mangrove losses. In the Mesoamerican reef there are as many as 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been lost.
- Ecological corridors between protected areas have been planned for the maintenance of biodiversity in natural ecosystems. Some of these, such as the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, have been implemented serving also as adaptation measures.
- Ten per cent and possibly as much as 50 per cent of the Arctic tundra could be replaced by forests by 2100. The narrow, remaining coastal tundra strips in Russia's European Arctic are likely to disappear.
- Meanwhile climate change is likely to favour pests, parasites and diseases such as musk ox lung worm and nematodes in reindeer. Forest fires and tree-killing insects such as spruce bark beetle are likely to increase.
- In North America, between 15 per cent and close to 40 per cent of plant and animal species will be "committed to extinction" by 2050. North American producers of wood and timber could suffer losses of between $1 billion and $2 billion a year during the 21st century if climate change also sparks changes in diseases, insect attacks and forest fires.
- A European-wide assessment of numerous plant species under various warming scenarios found that more than half could become vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, or committed to extinction by 2080 if they are unable to disperse. Other studies find that species would generally shift their natural ranges from the southwestern to the northeastern parts of the continent in response to climate change.
- Nearly half of Asia’s biodiversity is at risk because of climate change. “Climate change is likely to affect forest expansion and migration, and exacerbate threats to biodiversity resulting from land use/cover change and population pressure in most of Asia. Marine and coastal ecosystems in Asia are likely to be affected by sea level rise and temperature increases.”
International Day for Biological Diversity 22 May http://www.biodiv.org/programmes/outreach /awareness/biodiv-day-2007-ctrs.shtml
Billion Tree Campaign in seven languages: http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign
The Green Belt Movement: http://www.greenbeltmovement.org
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation: http://www.fondationprincealbertiidemonaco.net
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF): http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/
For More Information, please contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: +254 20 7624001, Mobile: +254 733 632755 or E-mail: email@example.com or Mellab Shiluli, Tel: +254 20 762 3089 or Mobile: +254 721 546406, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
UNEP News Release 2007/15