Today Prof. Wangari Maathai, the inspiration behind the initiative, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Prince Albert II of Monaco announced that a promise made last year for the UN climate convention meeting to plant a billion trees had been met.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: 'I am delighted to say that an initiative to catalyze the pledging and the planting of one billion trees has achieved and indeed surpassed its mark. It is a further sign of the breathtaking momentum witnessed this year on the challenge for this generation-climate change'.
'There had been a few cynical smiles and shaking of heads when the Billion Tree Campaign was launched. Some said it would never happen, and others couldn't at first see the raison d'être. But citizen after citizen, community after community and country after country, have proved the doubters wrong and demonstrated an abiding truth in 2007,' he added.
'Namely that given a focus and the chance to act, millions if not billions of people around this world want an end to pollution and environmental deterioration and have rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty to prove the point,' said Mr Steiner.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder and Patron of the campaign, said: 'I am elated beyond words at the global interest and action that was motivated by the Billion Tree Campaign. I knew we had it within us as a human family to rise up! We called you to action almost exactly a year ago and you responded beyond our dreams. Thank you very much! Now we must keep the pressure on and continue the good work for the planet. Plant another tree today in celebration!'
The enthusiasm of individuals to make a difference is underlined by figures collected by UNEP which indicate that half of all those who planted are often private citizens or households planting one to three trees. Significantly, another 13 per cent have been planted by the private sector, which participated actively in the initiative.
ICRAF Director General Dennis Garrity said: 'The World Agroforestry Centre is very proud that the ambitious goal of the Billion Tree Campaign has been attained. This milestone shows clearly that the global community has the spirit and the substance to unite in achieving ambitious targets to create a better environment for all. We look forward to working with UNEP and so many other organizations in setting and achieving even greater stretch goals for a more 'bountreeful' world in the coming years.'
The news comes as thousands of delegates across the world are ready to arrive on the Indonesian island of Bali for the next and most crucial round of global warming negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, jointly established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization, has in 2007 concluded that climate change is happening; the global impacts are likely to be in many cases devastating but cost effective solutions are available now to counter the worst.
The Billion Tree Campaign, inspired by a concept put forward by Wangari Maathai, was launched at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi on 8 November 2006.
Among the first, if not the first tree planted, was an indigenous sapling earthed in the soil of the garden of Meryem Amar-a UNEP staff member based in Nairobi who has been coordinating the UNEP-side of the effort including catalyzing action as well as registering pledges and plantings on a dedicated web site.
Early pledges included one from the forest restoration NGO Trees for Life; a Colombian radio station; Tree-Nation in Barcelona; the Great Rift Valley Trust and the Government of Morocco.
A big boost came in Mexico where the government and local authorities-with support from the army and inspired by President Felipe Calderón-pledged and planted over 200 million trees.
In Kenya the environmental arm of French energy company Total joined the push and in some parts of the world refugees took up the challenge by planting over 9.5 million trees.
The billionth tree planted is believed to be in Ethiopia where, and as part of the country's Millennium Commemoration 2007, close to 700 million trees have been planted alone.
Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, a UNEP Champion of the Earth and senior member of the country's Environmental Protection Authority, says that amongst the trees planted are the African Olive tree and the African pencil cedar.
The initiative, whose other Patron is His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, is unlikely to end with the surpassing of the one billion trees planted mark.
UNEP is expecting that Guatemala, China and Spain will shortly announce that several million more trees have been planted.
Indonesia is expected today to plant almost 80 million trees in one day in the run up to the Bali climate convention meeting next month.
The totals of trees planted are still being collated with the numbers rising almost daily. But the top-ranking countries appear to be Ethiopia, over 700 million trees planted; Mexico, 217 million trees; Turkey, 150 million; Kenya, 100 million; Cuba, 96.5 million; Rwanda, 50 million; Republic of Korea, 43 million; Tunisia, 21 million; Morocco, 20 million; Myanmar, 20 million and Brazil, 16 million. The Green Belt Movement alone planted 4.7 million trees, double the number of trees it had initially pledged.