Day 6

Planting 1 trillion trees could slow climate change. Here's how Canada could contribute

Large-scale tree planting could be the easiest and cheapest way to mitigate carbon emission. Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario, explains what that job would look like across the country.

'Recognising we have lands available that are ideal for afforestation is just excellent'

A new study suggests that planting 1 trillion trees could reduce carbon emissions. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

Planting a trillion trees could be the "most effective way to fight global warming," according to a recent study, but summoning a massive forest is no easy feat, according to the head of Forests Ontario.

Rob Keen, a registered professional forester and the forestry non-profit organization's chief executive, told Day 6 that large scale planting requires mass coordination and effort to get the job done. 

The study, published in the Journal of Science, suggests that planting trees could be an affordable and effective way of combating the climate crisis. It also named Canada as one of the six countries with enough land to make an effort in this tree planting process. 

Keen explained that the study is talking about afforestation — the process of creating "forests that haven't existed before." 

During afforestation, "Every move that a professional tree planter makes is working toward the efficiency of planting a tree," Keen said. 

"Planting trees itself is a very labour intensive process" said Rob Keen, forester and CEO for Forests Ontario. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

He added that professional tree planters can plant up to 2,000 trees each day without machinery, and up to 7,000 trees when using machinery. 

Keen described the physical labour of tree planting as "a true character builder," but said it is, "very gratifying as well, knowing that the tree planters are doing something very green for our earth." 

Before a tree planter can even make their mark in the ground, however, choosing the right species of tree for the soil is a long process, he added.

"It all starts with the seed collection," Keen said. "I think what's really critical now as we see climate change progress, is that we do keep very careful track of where we've collected the seed from" to prolong the survival of new forests. 

Canada was identified in the study as one of the areas with a large amount of eligible land to work towards the 1 trillion tree target. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

This process — from collection, to planting, to survival assessment — can take up to five years, Keen explained. 

Keen found the study encouraging overall and "recognizing we have lands available that are ideal for afforestation is just excellent."

"Everybody can play a role," he said. "Landowners can provide lands to grow trees for societal benefit. Likewise if folks don't have land to provide, then certainly there is an opportunity to provide donations to different organizations like Forests Ontario." 

To hear more from Rob Keen listen to the full segment, download our podcast or click 'Listen' above.