New Zealand is getting closer to finalizing their plan to plant 1 billion trees, according to Stuff. The government allocated an additional $240 million to the projects, bringing its total budget to $485 million over the next three years. If this plan is approved, the program would play a key role in the country's efforts to mitigate climate change. New Zealand is considering enacting a zero emissions target by 2050 and planting trees could be incorporated into a cap and trade, or emissions trading scheme program, also known as ETS.
"Getting the ETS right could drive the planting of 340 million trees over the next 10 years - double the amount that would be planted if the ETS was left in its current state," Forestry Minister Shane Jones told Stuff.
"This is one of the most important levers the Government has to incentivize the planting of trees to help reach our Billion Tree program's goals," he added.
Trees are known to fight climate change by pulling greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. They also help to protect the landscapes from some of the extreme consequences of climate change like storms and flooding. That is on top of the many other benefits of trees, like cleaning the soil, air and water, providing food and shelter, and so much more.
New Zealand has framed the tree planting plan in social uplift terms. Jones, the forestry minister, said that the trees will help to rehabilitate degraded environments, help wildlife thrive and provide around 1,000 jobs. The critics of this plan accused the government of being disingenuous about where the funds are coming from and have stalled the plan's implementation.
"When the Government is closing down maternity centers like Lumsden's, canceling new funding for cochlear implants for children, breaking its promise of universal cheap GP visits and more funding for mental health initiatives because it claims it doesn't have enough money, the extra $240 million for planting pine trees is extraordinary," regional economic development spokesman Paul Goldsmith told Stuff.
But the initiative enjoys broad support, and the government is considering public and private relationships that would give grants to landowners to plant a tree on their properties. This sort of all-hands-on-deck approach to environmental rehabilitation is happening in other parts of the world as well. In Pakistan, newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that a plan to plant 10 billion trees and India has backed similarly ambitious projects. These efforts are good for the environment, but they do not tackle climate change, which is the world's primary environmental challenge.
To do that, countries have to cut greenhouses emissions drastically. New Zealand currently has a run-of-the-mill emissions reductions target under the Paris climate agreement. The country is trying to lower 2005 emissions levels by 30% in 2030. The 2050 proposal of getting to net zero emissions is more ambitious and would be a nice complement to a billion trees.