Blue Helmets Go Green
Nairobi, 22 July 2009 - Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Um Bello, heads up the Alpha Company of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) which is working in the region of Kakata in western Liberia. On 8 July 2009, Um Bello led his troops in a new exercise: planting trees to contribute to the UNEP-led Billion Tree campaign.
"The war against global warming is both an individual and collective responsibility," Um Bello told the UN soldiers and dignitaries who had come to the launching of the tree planting drive. "As a contingent, we have resolved to join efforts with the international community; well-meaning organizations and individuals to ensure that the war is fought, won and our planet Earth is saved," he added as his troops planted 50 trees and pledged to plant another 700 before the end of the year.
Trees are critical in the fight against climate change. The loss of natural forests around the world is contributing more to global emissions each year than the transport sector. Trees, which absorb carbon dioxide and store nearly 300 Gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone, are a crucial factor in the global environmental battle. They help conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and they house up to 90 percent of known terrestrial species.
The Alpha Company will have planted a total of 1,000 trees by December 2009, 300 of which they will plant when they return to the base camp in the Sobi barracks in Kwara State in Nigeria. "Tree planting has been identified as one of the weapons with which we can combat global warming and other forms of environmental degradation. It is therefore, against this backdrop, that we are gathered here today to ensure that trees are planted in their millions as a solution to global warming," said Lieutenant Colonel Um Bello.
"The care and protection of our environment is everybody's concern," stressed Um Bello.
Working under UNEP's worldwide Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, which aims to plant seven billion trees or one for every member of the human race by December 2009, DPKO has already planted some 28,000 trees and pledged for 33,000 more in 11 missions that include Timor Leste, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Darfur, Sudan, Western Sahara, Haiti, Lebanon and Liberia.
To date, over four billion trees have been planted and 169 countries have participated in the campaign.
"On this memorable day, we have all become a part of history," Um Bello told the DPKO forces. "Let us rise to the call of UNEP and all plant a tree today for the sustainability of our environment," he added.
Meanwhile, as part of its efforts to enhance and develop the physical environment in Darfur, United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has embarked on a tree planting exercise at its headquarters in El Fasher. An initial 50 seedlings were planted on Tuesday and it is expected that the project will culminate in December when the goal of 1,000 trees will be planted in all UNAMID compounds.
The exercise is being undertaken following a recommendation by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) on engaging ways to address the impact of the conflict in Darfur on the environment.
In a call to further global action, UNEP is inviting everyone from civil society to the business community to Governments to plant trees as part of the UNite to Combat Climate Change initiative, and register their commitments to plant on the campaign's website: www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign
Top 10 tree-planting countries are the following:
Ethiopia 1.4 Billion
Turkey 707 Million
Mexico 537 Million
People's Republic of China 236 Million
Kenya 143 Million
Cuba 137 Million
Indonesia 100 Million
India 88 Million
Republic of Korea 50 Million
Rwanda 50 Million