Canada has yet to gain any meaningful traction on fulfilling its ambitious regreening commitment to planting 2 billion trees by 2030, with only 29 million seedlings planted in the two years since the project began.
The pledge, made as part of Trudeau's first campaign and reiterated during the 2020 Speech from the Throne, is one of the Liberal government's major environmental initiatives. Other cities, such as New York and London have also set similar targets, with the latter aiming to become the world's first "national park city."
Such initiatives are reported to be helpful in combatting climate change, providing shelter from extreme heat, supporting wildlife conservation and biodiversity, and even creating jobs.
To date, however, only 29 million trees have been planted in Canada — 1.45% of the total goal.
Despite the numbers, leaders remain optimistic, with Natural Resource Minister Jonathan Wilkinson highlighting that the government was still meeting its intermediary yearly target of planting 30 million trees in 2021.
"We have achieved 97% of our planting target and are on track to plant 2 billion trees over the course of 10 years," he said, according to CTV.
Still, a lot of work remains.
To stay on track with its target, the government would need to plant another 200 million trees a year, according to CTV News. Unfortunately, Canada’s four seasons make this difficult as planting can't be done at the same pace year-round.
In Canada, planting season starts in late April to early May, when plants are put in the ground to take root, and usually ends in September, when all activity stops because of winter temperatures. The government must also factor in weather conditions, as trees can only be planted when temperatures are above 10°C, according to Tree Canada.
Regardless of its progress toward the goal, regreening initiatives remain a key component of developed countries’ commitment to combatting climate change and achieving the United Nations’ Global Goals.
The benefits of regreening extend well beyond national borders. In urban environments, for instance, trees can regulate temperatures and absorb pollutants — including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, dust, and smoke — and assist with cooling streets, infrastructure, and parks. This becomes even more important when you consider that more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, a number expected to grow by 20 percentage points by 2050.
More than cooling cities and assisting with absorbing pollutants, tree planting and regreening campaigns can assist with maintaining ecological biodiversity in light of the increasing risk of natural disasters brought about by climate change.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Association, a mature evergreen tree can intercept more than 15,000 litres of water every year. Where deforestation has run rampant, the threat of water erosion to soil increases the risk and damages associated with landslides, as observed in British Columbia.
Wilkinson said Canada plans to keep ramping up efforts toward meeting its target, and, more broadly, its commitments to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. With new partnerships, the government is hoping to plant between 250 and 300 trees a day by 2026, CTV reported.