The milestone was reached following confirmation by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture that an additional 687 million trees were planted in 2008 under the country’s national tree planting scheme.
UNEP also planted a tree for each of the more than 10,000 people who signed up for the ‘Twitter for Trees’ initiative on the internet-based social networking site Twitter by World Environment Day on 5 June.
Groups such as the World Organization of the Scouts Movement, with 28 million members in 160 countries, committed to plant 65,000 trees, while blue helmets in Timor-Leste, Côte D’Ivoire, Darfur, Lebanon, Haiti, Congo, Georgia, Liberia and Western Sahara also joined the campaign on World Environment Day.
The Billion Tree Campaign reached the three billion milestone less than two month ago, when the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forests announced that collective efforts by the Government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society had led to the planting of over 300 million trees in 2008.
The latest participants in the campaign include the Pakistan Ministry of Environment and Forests, which has pledged to plant 120 million trees, and Turkmenistan, which has committed to plant close to 1.5 million trees this year.
UNEP said that trees help conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes, and in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, trees store nearly 300 gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone.
Negotiations on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012, are expected to wrap up at a UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.