The campaign is premised on the science of using trees as ‘carbon sinks’ whereby they soak up carbon dioxide and release it into the atmosphere as oxygen.
According to UNEP, rainforests cover only seven per cent of the land on earth but contain nearly half of all the trees on earth and generate about 40 per cent of the world’s oxygen.
‘’In one year, an average tree inhales 12 kg (26 pounds) of carbon dioxide and exhales enough oxygen for a family of four for a year,’’ UNEP says.
Recognising that there were many tree planting schemes round the world, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said recently that achieving set targets under the campaign must not be confined to the corridors of the negotiation halls.
‘’They must offer a direct and straight forward path toward recreating lost forests and developing new ones.’’
He said that the focus should also be on addressing other concerns such as the loss of bio-diversity, improving water availability, stemming desertification and reducing erosion.
Steiner spoke further: ‘’The billion tree campaign is an acronym, 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.’’
According to him, the world has a short time to avert serious consequences as a result of climate change.
Under the initiative, people, communities, businesses and industry, the civil society and government are being encouraged to make commitments to planting trees.
Prince Albert 11 of Monaco says one of the primary aims of the campaign is to create an unprecedented mobilisation in favour of the environment.
Albert, who is the patron of the initiative, says that the project will encourage and coordinate the planting of local species initiated by governments, NGOs, communities and even children.
‘’The campaign is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol of sustainable development,’’ he says.
Al Gore, former U.S. Vice-President, lent credence to the efficacy of tree planting last year when he said that ‘’the symbolism and substantive significance of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on earth.
‘’It is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions to the environmental crisis.’’
In Nigeria, governments at various levels have in the past two decades embraced tree planting campaigns aimed at greening the desert, checking desertification, degradation and erosion in most parts of the country.