Europe Announces Plan to Plant 3 Billion Trees by 2030

The E.U. hopes to convince farmers to be one of the driving forces in the effort to plant the new trees.
Soa Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Aug. 17, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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Farmers through­out Europe could play a piv­otal role in the suc­cess of the new European Union Forest Strategy, which asks mem­ber states to plant three bil­lion more trees on the con­ti­nent by 2030.

Member states can encour­age farm­ers to estab­lish new forests by set­ting appro­pri­ate sup­port lev­els for pay­ments, com­pen­sat­ing both the estab­lish­ment and main­te­nance costs,” a European Commission source told Olive Oil Times.

The strat­egy empha­sizes how every cit­i­zen, pri­vate orga­ni­za­tion and pub­lic insti­tu­tion is wel­come to par­tic­i­pate in the refor­est­ing effort. However, the com­mis­sion said that farm­ers’ com­mit­ment to the strat­egy could sig­nif­i­cantly enhance the chances of reach­ing the ambi­tious tar­get given their knowl­edge of their land.

See Also:Deforestation and Industrial Agriculture Spur Zoonotic Diseases, Study Finds

In this sce­nario, one of the main issues may be the poten­tial loss of crop­land in favor of new forestry areas.

Member states can set the length for the com­mit­ment period for an annual pre­mium per hectare to cover the costs of agri­cul­tural income fore­gone and main­te­nance,” the European Commission sources said. Under the cur­rent pro­gram­ming period, it is 12 years, and under this com­mit­ment period, the afforested land remains eli­gi­ble for direct pay­ment.”


According to the com­mis­sion, the oppor­tu­ni­ties for farm­ers and land man­agers will grow due to the Carbon Farming Initiative, with which Brussels hopes to trig­ger effi­cient and eco-friendly car­bon-trap­ping devel­op­ment mod­els.

This ini­tia­tive said the com­mis­sion, will aim to pro­mote fur­ther a new green busi­ness model that rewards cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tally friendly prac­tices by land man­agers, includ­ing for­est man­agers and own­ers, based on the cli­mate ben­e­fits they pro­vide.”

The remu­ner­a­tion of mit­i­ga­tion efforts through incen­tive pay­ments or the gen­er­a­tion of trad­able car­bon cer­tifi­cates will cre­ate a new busi­ness model that pro­vides a new source of income to farm­ers, foresters and land man­agers who imple­ment sus­tain­able activ­i­ties lead­ing to car­bon removals and stor­age,” the com­mis­sion added.

The E.U. paper on the Three Billion Tree Initiative empha­sizes the essen­tial role of forests in the sus­tain­abil­ity of human activ­i­ties. Forests are ecosys­tems that pro­vide water reg­u­la­tion, dis­as­ter risk reduc­tion, soil sta­bi­liza­tion and ero­sion con­trol while also being a source for air and water purifi­ca­tion, food, med­i­cine, recre­ation and income.

The ini­tia­tive fur­ther stated the crit­i­cal role of urban veg­e­ta­tion and trees, the increase of which will also be imple­mented as a strate­gic tar­get.


Tuscany, Italy

A sub­stan­tial part of the E.U. forestry effort will be deliv­ered through the means of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), recently agreed upon by E.U. mem­ber states.

The new deliv­ery model of the future CAP will give mem­ber states more flex­i­bil­ity and will there­fore make it pos­si­ble for them to bet­ter take into account local con­di­tions and needs,” the European Commission sources said.

According to the com­mis­sion, beyond the pos­si­bil­ity of tra­di­tional afforesta­tion, sup­port can be received for estab­lish­ing agro­forestry sys­tems, com­bin­ing tree grow­ing with either pas­toral or arable cul­tures.”

The result­ing forestry man­age­ment will allow farm­ers to par­tic­i­pate in the for­est ini­tia­tive while still being eli­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion and pay­ment pro­vided by the CAP.

While the olive tree is con­sid­ered agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and falls out­side the scope of the E.U. Forest Strategy, the com­mis­sion empha­sized how spe­cific actions in sup­port of this type of pro­duc­tion can be included in the new National Strategic Plans that the mem­ber states are prepar­ing in the con­text of the new CAP.”

Still, the three bil­lion tree tar­get will have to take into account and resolve sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems plagu­ing E.U. forests.

Unlike almost all con­ti­nents, in the European Union, forests have been grow­ing in the last decades,” Leonardo Bianchini, co-owner of the arborist con­sul­tancy Urban Trees Management, told Olive Oil Times. But if that hap­pens, it is also due to the aban­don­ment of crop­lands.”

The col­o­niza­tion by forests of for­mer farm­ing areas is cre­at­ing a series of sim­pli­fied and del­i­cate forestry ecosys­tems,” he added. Those are prone to pathogens, are not resilient and are often at risk of fuel­ing wild­fires.”

According to Bianchini, the new plant­ing projects will have to be care­fully eval­u­ated by choos­ing the suit­able loca­tions and the right species, con­sid­er­ing the fol­low­ing main­te­nance oper­a­tions, their costs and adopt­ing ade­quate fire pre­ven­tion mea­sures.

New trees can absorb and cap­ture car­bon diox­ide, that is true, but only if they stay healthy and find the right con­di­tions to grow,” he said.

While the core of the European project is to con­tribute to tack­ling chal­lenges brought on by cli­mate change, the deploy­ment of the trees them­selves does not con­sti­tute a guar­an­tee for suc­cess.

See Also:Europe Plans to Triple Agricultural Land Dedicated to Organic Farming by 2030

What we see now is that the cli­mate insta­bil­ity is heav­ily affect­ing veg­e­ta­tion and trees, putting them under great stress which directly affects their health,” Bianchini said.

He added that tree nurs­eries will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the suc­cess of the ini­tia­tive.

It will be very rel­e­vant to select high-qual­ity nurs­ery mate­r­ial; forestry tree spe­cial­ized nurs­eries should receive incen­tives for pro­duc­ing mate­r­ial with spe­cific genetic char­ac­ter­is­tics which have also been grown under spe­cific pro­to­cols,” Bianchini said.

One of the main issues will be pro­tect­ing new European forests from the many for­eign pathogens spread­ing across the con­ti­nent.

We are now fac­ing bac­te­ria and pests com­ing from abroad,” Bianchini said. We should prob­a­bly do much more than we cur­rently do in the European Union to limit the import of organic plant mate­ri­als or even wooden arti­facts.”

While the E.U. paper on the Forest Strategy does not men­tion such a mea­sure, it con­firms the rel­e­vance of care­ful forestry plan­ning.

The pledge of three bil­lion addi­tional trees will be car­ried out with a long-term plan­ning and mon­i­tor­ing scheme,” the com­mis­sion said. This will ensure that the trees are not only planted but are also allowed to grow over time and thrive in a chang­ing cli­mate.”

Most ini­tia­tives will be car­ried out locally by asso­ci­a­tions of cit­i­zens, com­pa­nies and pub­lic enti­ties. Still, the European Commission intends to count and mon­i­tor” the progress as the plant­ing project unfolds.

It will pro­vide polit­i­cal and tech­ni­cal sup­port, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and label­ing, and will work along­side the European Environmental Agency on a user-friendly count­ing and mon­i­tor­ing plat­form,” the com­mis­sion said.

Brussels observed that this pledge will not solve the cli­mate nor the bio­di­ver­sity cri­sis on its own.” Still, it aims to increase for­est cov­er­age in the E.U. while respect­ing eco­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples, and improve the resilience of forests in the EU.”


It includes com­mit­ments to strictly pro­tect remain­ing E.U. pri­mary and old-growth forests, ensure that forests are man­aged sus­tain­ably and improve the mon­i­tor­ing of E.U. forests,” the com­mis­sion added.

Planting trees to com­bat cli­mate change is becom­ing an impor­tant issue in many coun­tries through­out the world.

In Ethiopia, the gov­ern­ment has asked cit­i­zens to plant trees, and in the last two years, 27 mil­lion res­i­dents planted an aston­ish­ing 10 bil­lion trees. According to Euronews, Addis Ababa hopes to dou­ble that num­ber by the end of the next year.

A few months ago, the South Korean gov­ern­ment launched its own Three Billion Trees ini­tia­tive and plans to reach that tar­get within the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, new ini­tia­tives are crop­ping up to increase the country’s man­grove forests. In a recent tele­vised speech, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that from 2013 to 2018, we’ve grown a bil­lion trees and now we are tar­get­ing to grow 10 bil­lion trees.”

Many more coun­tries, such as China and Brazil, are also work­ing on refor­esta­tion plans.

However, in a recent paper pub­lished by the Yale School of Environment, Adam Welz acknowl­edged how some peo­ple fear that the cur­rent focus on tree-plant­ing ini­tia­tives through­out the world could dis­tract from pro­tect­ing exist­ing forests and reduc­ing fos­sil fuel use.

Still, experts such as Bianchini and Wes Swaffar from the United States con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion American Forests believe that plant­ing the right trees in the right place” can still help car­bon seques­tra­tion.

Forests are the best nature-based solu­tion to cli­mate change,” Swaffar said. Trees also pro­vide many ben­e­fits to peo­ple, like improv­ing health and cre­at­ing [forestry-related] job oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

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