Million-tree mission hopes to fix reforestation flaws

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Joensuu

It’s an environmental policy embraced by heads of state, multinational businesses and even leading climate sceptic Donald Trump: plant more trees to help the planet and slow global warming.

But experts claim some recent mass tree-planting schemes have failed to reduce greenhouse gases when not done properly, and even harmed the environment.

Now a pair of Finnish environmentalists believe they have created a reforestation initiative that will avoid these problems and allow for millions of new trees every year, tracked by a smartphone app.

Former schoolteacher Mika Vanhanen has overseen the planting of 30 million trees across the globe via a network of 10,000 schools, the result of two decades work.

But “some of the trees died because we didn’t have the resources to care for them”, Vanhanen, founder of tree-planting charity ENO, told AFP in his hometown of Joensuu, eastern Finland.

Last year Turkey’s forestry trade union said almost all of the 11 million trees planted during the country’s National Forestation Day in 2019 had died after just a few months.

And in Chile, a study found landowners were taking advantage of financial tree-planting incentives by cutting down established, carbon-absorbing forests and replacing them with new ones.

So last year Vanhanen teamed up with “environmental technology” expert Pekka Harju-Autti to launch an innovative model for large-scale tree-planting with the emphasis on sustainability.

Their “TreeBuddy” scheme invites businesses and individuals to “buy” one or more trees, for instance as a gift to customers, employees or friends.

But unlike other initiatives, the consumer also pays for the upkeep of the tree for up to 25 years.—APP

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