The campaign by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to plant a billion trees worldwide this year has met its goal seven months early after Senegal unveiled a pledge today to plant 20 million trees.
The campaign, announced at the recent climate change convention conference held in Nairobi, Kenya, now switches to turning those pledges into one billion actual plantings by the end of 2007.
Senegal made its announcement on the International Day on Biological Diversity, which this year has a special focus on the relationship between biodiversity and climate change.
In his message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described this year’s theme as timely given that climate change is increasingly identified as one of the biggest causes of a loss of animal and plant species.
“The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is an essential element of any strategy to adapt to climate change,” Mr. Ban said. “The international community is committed to conserving biodiversity and combating climate change. The global response to these challenges needs to move much more rapidly, and with more determination at all levels – global, national and local.”
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said countries and communities as well as corporations and individual citizens across both the developed and developing world had responded to the tree planting challenge with grassroots enthusiasm and commitment. He said this “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.”
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, warned that the world is “experiencing the greatest wave of extinctions since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Extinction rates are rising by a factor of up to 1,000 above natural rates. Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct. The cause: human activities.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently found that a projected temperature increase of 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius could increase the risk of extinction for 20 to 30 per cent of plant and animal species. The Panel has said that the world’s temperature is likely to rise by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.
Mr. Djoghlaf said “the ability of the planet to provide the goods and services that we, and future generations, need for our well-being is seriously and perhaps irreversibly jeopardized.”
At a press briefing today in New York, representatives of indigenous peoples said climate change presented a major threat to their lands, customs and traditions. Lakhan Bibi from the Hindu Kush region in Pakistan’s high mountains said her people had long depended on melting from glaciers for water for farming. But the rate of melting had increased, causing flooding and avalanches, and thus considerable damage to native lands.
Malia Nobrega from Hawaii said Pacific islanders were experiencing many negative effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity. Mangroves had been lost, fisheries depleted, and some islands have experienced droughts. At the same time, the island nation of Tuvalu could completely disappear due to rising sea levels.