Trees shade us from the heat of day, bear fruit for our tables and add beauty to the landscape. Cutting down trees for fuel leads to deforestation and desertification and is linked to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
From an environmental perspective, trees are essential: the life-giving oxygen produced by trees removes air pollution, lowers temperatures and adds moisture to the air. By holding the soil in place and reducing run-off from streams, trees prevent soil erosion, control avalanches, mitigate desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes. Birds and other wildlife need trees for shelter and food – and so do children.
In addition, the destruction of trees is a gender and health issue. Women and girls spend increasing numbers of hours each day fetching wood for fuel, and they are disproportionately exposed to indoor smoke from cooking fires.
Environmental conservation through tree planting is one of the foundations of development. For example, the Ethiopian Government set the goal of planting 20 million trees. UN agencies worked closely with the government to mobilize the public, especially children and young people, to take part in the challenge.