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Billion Tree Campaign logo
Dec 2011

Billion Tree Campaign handover to young generation

On 7 December, 2011, at the end of the International Year of Forests, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) handed over the Billion Tree Campaign to the children of Plant-for-the-Planet.

Inspired by Wangari Maathai and launched in 2006 by the UN Environment Programme. The campaign catalysed tree planting action on all continents. The billionth tree, an African Olive, was planted in Ethiopia in November 2007. In 2008, the campaign's target was raised to seven billion trees.

The campaign has found many supporters in the corporate world, governments and many non-governmental organisations like the World Organization of the Scouts Movement, and the UN Peacekeeping missions.

Plant-for-the-Planet had been a member of the Billion Tree Campaign since 2007. Under its roof, children all around the world planted millions of trees. The move of the Billion Tree Campaign from New York to Munich shows an acknowledgement of the right of the young generation to own – and secure – their own future. Now it's children to watch over the grown-ups that they too plant their trees and don't spend the resources on their favourite game: corruption.

The current goal is 13 billion trees.

See: Billion Tree Campaign

string: Moving UN speech by Felix Finkbeiner

'Forest Hero' Shigeatsu Hatakeyama. © Ryo Murakami/UNU
Dec 2011

Forests 'activate' coastal seas

Already decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leech acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. And when plankton thrives, so does the rest of the food chain. [1]

This was put into good practice by Japanese fisherman Mr Shigeatsu Hatakeyama who inherited an oyster farm business from his parents. But the waters in Kesennuma Bay in Miyagi, Japan, had become unsuitable for oyster cultivation after an outbreak of red tide plankton. On a trip to France in 1984, Mr Hatakeyama saw healthy oysters in the Loire river estuary and noticed a vast deciduous broadleaf forest upriver. He made the connection and he realized the positive influence forests have on ocean ecology and biodiversity.

Back home, he held the first Mori wa Umi no Koibito (Forests are Lovers of the Sea) campaign in 1989: with other fishermen he planted broadleaf trees upstream along the Okawa River to reduce pollutants flowing into the sea. These afforestation activities became an annual event and have since gained momentum – so far, more than 50,000 trees have been planted. It has led to a region-wide proactive movement to preserve the environment, including water drainage regulation and promoting farming practices with less agricultural chemicals. [2] [3]

Mr Hatakeyama became known as 'Grandpa Oyster' after spending more than twenty years developing the forest that keeps the Okawa River clean and his thriving oysters healthy.
In 2009, he established another Forests are Lovers of the Sea programme which provides hands-on education for children, bringing them closer to the ocean and the forest.

He has now received a Forest Heroes Award from the UN International Year of Forests 2011 committee.

[1] Jim Robbins, Why Trees Matter, NY Times, April 11, 2012
[2] Asia & Japan Watch
[3] UN Forest Heroes Award

Felix Finkbeiner delivering his speech at the UN headquarters. © Plant-for-the-Planet
Feb 2011

Moving UN speech by Felix Finkbeiner

2011 was proclaimed by the UN as the International Year of Forests. At the opening ceremony in New York, 13-year-old Felix Finkbeiner addresses the UN with a moving speech, demanding of the grown-ups to care for the planet und give the younger generations a future.

Felix was nine years old when he founded the children's initiative Plant for the Planet in Bavaria in 2007. Plant for the Planet grew rapidly into a world-wide movement and in the first four and a half years of its existence over 3.8 million trees were planted.

Watch video on UN Media

Comment by Fred Hageneder: 'To some viewers, the auditorium at Felix's UN speech might seem half empty but to me it is half full. I compare it with an event about five years previously, when the UN had agreed, for once, to give the indigenous nations of the world some speech time. Some 5,000 indigenous nations, most of them more or less threatened by ecocide or even genocide, were granted 5 minutes (!) speech time. As ambassador they chose a 12-year-old boy from Central America. His brilliant talk was greeted by low attendance, boredom and ignorance. The camera showed delegates engaged in paper scribbles, finger-tapping or impatiently checking their watches. It was torture to watch. Hence I am rather happy with the reception of Felix's message. Times have moved on!'

string: Billion Tree Campaign handover to young generation

logo of the UNEP
Aug 2009

Campaign: Seven billion trees for the Earth

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the name '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 each year. The first year succeeded in even reaching the 2-billion mark!

In a call to further individual and collective action, UNEP has set a new goal of planting 7 billion trees by the end of 2009 – one for every human on the planet.

The campaign strongly encourages the planting of indigenous trees and trees that are appropriate to the local environment.

Check it out at

diagram displaying the characteristics of the world's forests. © FRA 2005
Jan 2006

The global forest situation 2005

Since 1946, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has regularly published its Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA). FRA 2005 compares the 2005 data with those from 2000 and 1995. Here are some of the results.


Total forest

The total forest area was judged to be just under 4 billion hectares – 30 per cent of the total land area of the Earth. However, this is more than a little euphemistic, as the FAO defines a 'forest area' as being half an acre or more of land of which at least ten per cent is under tree cover. Thus, any small field with a hedge around becomes a forest! Indeed this is a major point of contention and international criticism of the FAO reports and should not be forgotten regarding the following numbers.

Ten countries with the largest forest area (2005)


Deforestation continues at an alarming rate, about 13 million hectares per year. On the other hand, landscape restoration, forest planting and natural expansion has increased to about 5.7 million hectares, leaving the total forest area 'net loss' at 7.3 million hectares. Again, there is a hidden euphemism, as the destruction of (dense) primary, old-growth forest cannot just be offset against planting seedlings, creating commercial plantation or even using cloned plants. Africa and South America had the largest net loss of forests. Asia had a net gain, primarily due to large-scale reforestation in southeastern China.


Primary forests

On average, 36 per cent of the world's forest area is still composed of primary forests, defined by FAO as 'forests of native species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and where the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed'. The rapid decrease continued at some six million hectares annually from 2000 through to 2005.

Characteristics of the world's forests (2005)


Protective forests

About 348 million hectares (nine per cent of the total) provide protection, either from erosion, dropping of the groundwater table, drought, flooding, desertification, avalanches or even tsunamis.


Tree diversity

The biodiversity levels vary widely between regions – naturally, there are fewer species towards the poles and increasingly more towards the equator. Hence, there are three native tree species in Iceland but about 7,780 in Brazil.

In most regions, the ten most common species comprise more than 50 per cent of the total forest cover, the exceptions are the tropical forests.

Number of native tree species (2005)



In 2005, eleven per cent of the world's forests were designated for the conservation of biological diversity, an increase by an estimated 96 million hectares since 1990. Conservation has been reported as one of the main targets in forest management plans for more than 25 per cent of the world's forest area. If only illegal – and legal! – logging would show respect for the status of conservation areas!

Functions of forests (2005)


The annual report can be downloaded in full from the FAO website.