United Nations Declares Ontario's 50 Million Tree Planting Program The Largest In North America
UN Recognizes Ontario's Leadership In Fight Against Climate Change
The United Nations today recognized the McGuinty government's plan to plant 50 million trees in southern Ontario as the most ambitious project of its kind in North America, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.
" We're working hard to reduce emissions, and today we're taking a bold new step that will make Ontario more beautiful and our environment healthier," said McGuinty. "We're tackling climate change in a lot different ways, but all our efforts have one thing in common: we need Ontarians to work with us and do their part."
The United Nations Environment Programme has launched the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. People around the world are encouraged to enter tree-planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees per year worldwide. Ontario's commitment represents the biggest pledge in North America.
The government is working with partners to plant as many as five million trees per year in southern Ontario to reach 50 million trees by 2020. The initiative will cost $79 million and help remove 3.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere by 2054, equal to 172 million car trips from Toronto to Barrie.
"I must applaud Ontario for joining this world-wide effort to plant a billion trees. Many people, faced with huge, seemingly insurmountable challenges such as climate change can often feel powerless to act," said Professor Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. "Tree planting restores that power back to individuals and communities making them again part of the solution to the climate change challenge. However, the act of planting a tree goes further -- reconnecting the human spirit to the beauty and importance of the natural world which is the basis of all life on Earth."
"Ontarians know that planting trees cleans the air, provides shade, increases wildlife habitat, helps prevent flooding and stores carbon," said Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay. "By working together with conservation organizations and citizens, we can take action to reduce the impacts of climate change and grow a greener province."
"Today's announcement opens the door for us to now start the necessary work with our tree planting partners to reach the 2020 target," said John Cary, Chair of the Trees Ontario Foundation. "We are very pleased that the Ontario government has stepped forward with this major commitment today, and we look forward to working with them and our partners on restoring the vital role that healthy new forests play in protecting our environment in southern Ontario."
"We are proud to join forces with other like-minded jurisdictions around the world in the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign," said Laurel Broten, Minister of the Environment. "By protecting trees on the Greenbelt and planting 50 million new ones, Ontario is cleaning the air and sequestering carbon -- an important step towards fighting global warming."
The Premier was joined at the event by scientist and astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar, who chaired the government's Working Group on Environmental Education. Premier McGuinty announced that the government is implementing the group's recommendations, such as integrating environmental education into all grades and developing a new optional Grade 11 course focussed on the environment.
"Students care deeply about building a brighter, more sustainable future for themselves and future generations," Bondar said. "Integrating environmental knowledge into their curriculum will equip them to better protect the local and global environment."
The plan to plant 50 million trees is just one more example of how, working together, Ontarians are achieving results in ensuring a healthier natural environment and responding to climate change. Other initiatives include:
- Making $220 million in loans and grants available to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving and retrofitting buildings
- Setting ambitious but realistic targets to reduce greenhouse gases below 1990 levels -- six per cent by 2014, 15 per cent by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050
- Launching a $650-million fund that will help secure the next generation of high-paying jobs for Ontarians by developing new clean and green technologies.
"When it comes to climate change, we've come a long way, but we have much more to do," said Premier McGuinty. "We've set ambitious goals, but I have no doubt that, by working together, we'll be able to look back with a sense of pride at our accomplishments and the greener province we've built."