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EU ‘very far’ from target to plant 3B trees, Commission admits

by editor

The European Union is nowhere near making good on its pledge to plant at least 3 billion trees by the end of the decade, a senior European Commission official said Wednesday.

As part of the European Green Deal, the EU executive committed in 2020 to boosting tree planting in an effort to increase the bloc’s carbon sinks, fight biodiversity loss, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

But four years later, “we are very far from reaching 3 billion trees by 2030,” Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius told an event organized by the EU executive.

According to an online tool set up by the Commission, only 14.9 million trees have been planted so far. Belgium tops the list with more than 5 million, followed by the Czech Republic with roughly 3 million and France with just over 2 million trees planted.

To meet the target, the EU would have needed to plant an average of 300 million trees every year starting in 2020.

Sinkevičius stressed that “only a fraction” of the trees planted in the EU are currently reported as part of the Commission’s tool. But he acknowledged that the bottom line is “we really need to plant more trees.”

For a tree to be counted toward the 3 billion target, it has to be considered “additional” — meaning it would not have been planted or grown otherwise, for example to meet national legal requirements — and must benefit biodiversity and the fight against climate change.

Those are difficult conditions to meet, Florika Fink-Hooijer, director general of the Commission’s environment department, said during the event.

Funding has also been an issue, she added, noting that more financial incentives are needed at both the EU and national levels to encourage tree planting across the bloc, including in cities.

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