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

A pair of crashes on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack have snarled traffic in both directions.
Pair of crashes snarl traffic between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Traffic delays eastbound, large westbound backup

Final numbers won't be known for weeks, but turnout was down across the board in the Fraser Valley and B.C.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
Election turnout down across Fraser Valley and B.C.

Even after thousands of mail-in ballots counted, turnout is likely to fall below 50% in many ridings

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Voters in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission and Langley may head back to polls in 2021

Election of local politicians in BC vote would trigger by-elections in several Fraser Valley cities

(from l) Fraser-Nicola candidates Jonah Timms (BC Green Party), Jackie Tegart (BC Liberal Party), and Aaron Sumexheltza (BC NDP). The polls have now closed and the counting has started. (Photo credit: Submitted)
Results awaited in Fraser-Nicola as polls have now closed

Counting of advance and election day votes has begun; mail-in votes to be counted starting Nov. 6

Fraser-Nicola BC Liberal Party candidate Jackie Tegart with supporters on the Ashcroft bridge, Oct. 21, 2020. Tegart is the frontrunner in the riding after the initial vote count, with mail-in ballots to be counted starting on Nov. 6. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Liberal incumbent Jackie Tegart holds narrow lead over Aaron Sumexheltza of NDP

Initial count is complete, and mail-in ballots will determine who wins in Fraser-Nicola

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

Most Read