A study by the Smart Prosperity Institute says planting two billion trees is possible and helpful as trees are one of the best natural ways to absorb some of the greenhouse gases, in a Dec. 17, 2019 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Green economy think tank gives thumbs up to fed’s tree planting promise

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to spend $3 billion on land and water conservation

A green economy think tank at the University of Ottawa says the federal government’s promise to plant two billion trees over the next 10 years is a cheap way to pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the election campaign to spend $3 billion on land and water conservation projects between now and 2030. Among those projects will be planting two billion additional trees.

The promise was met with some eye rolls as different parties kept upping the ante on tree planting, including the Green party’s pledge to plant 10 billion trees by 2050.

But a government official in Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson’s office said negotiations are underway with New Brunswick and other provinces to get new tree planting programs started as early as possible next year.

Ottawa doesn’t intend to plant the trees itself, but will provide money to help others do it.

Dave Sawyer, an environmental economist with the Smart Prosperity Institute, said “two billion is a good start” when it comes to using nature to help Canada cut greenhouse gas emissions.

A study Sawyer helped write found that planting two billion trees is possible and helpful as trees are one of the best natural ways to absorb some of the greenhouse gases produced from burning fossil fuels.

The study suggests planting that many new trees could reduce emissions between two and four million tonnes a year in 2030. By 2050, as the trees mature and can absorb more carbon dioxide, that amount could more than double to between four and almost nine million tonnes a year.

READ MORE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveils new Liberal cabinet

The cost to plant those trees per tonne of emissions reduced would between $16 and $36, the study says, which is noticeably less than the $50 a tonne carbon tax that will be in place by 2022.

The investment would drive economic activity by paying people — usually young people — to plant the trees as well as work for local nurseries to grow the saplings, Sawyer said.

Even at four million tonnes a year by 2030, the impact on Canada’s emissions would not be huge. Canada is currently aiming to cut emissions from 716 million tonnes in 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available) to no more than 511 million tonnes by 2030. It’s a target that will get tougher next year when Wilkinson increases Canada’s target.

“It’s not the panacea to solve Canada’s problem,” Sawyer said. “But clearly there is something here and we can actually get a lot of carbon and a lot co-benefits, environmental benefits, local economic development benefits.”

A few recent studies have shown benefits to starting a global effort to plant new trees, a plan backed by Swedish teenager and climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg. American clean-tech leader Elon Musk is among those putting up some money to kickstart efforts.

Some critics have suggested there is not space on the planet to put all the new trees suggested, but Sawyer said Canada does have room for two billion new trees.

While the study took into account the expectation that not every new tree planted would survive, he said where they get planted and ensuring a variety of tree types are included will be key to making the most of the efforts.

Canada has had tremendous losses of trees from pest infestations partly because urban and rural forestation efforts have in the past focused on one tree types. That meant the pine beetle had a devastating impact in British Columbia, for example, as the emerald ash borer has had in some cities in central and eastern Canada.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some Surrey landlords ‘kicking out’ businesses that can’t make rent

Surrey Board of Trade CEO suspects situation will be worse in May

Surrey RCMP not seeing ‘significant loss’ in ranks because of COVID-19

Surrey Mounties say they have a good tracking system to keep tabs on police officers experiencing an illness

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

APRIL 1: B.C.’s state of emergency extended, provincial health officer to provide update at 3 p.m.

Supreme Court upholds White Rock council decision on Lady Alexandra development

Planned 12-storey highrise on lower Johnston Road was stalled in 2018

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

Trudeau says Parliament needs to sit to pass expanded COVID-19 benefits

Wage subsidy program has been greatly expanded since it was first approved

UPDATE: Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

World COVID-19 update: NATO suspicious of Russian military drills; Cruise ships ordered to stay at sea

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world for Wednesday, April 1

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

B.C. heart surgery patient rarely leaves home

James Jepson is especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus

Most Read