The One Million Trees Project is just one of the many things the city is doing to become more resilient to climate change. It will also make a big contribution to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs' Northern Ireland-wide 'Forests of our Future' project.
Planting trees has several benefits, including:
• Reducing carbon - A mature tree absorbs CO2 at a rate of 48 pounds per year. In one year, an acre of forest can absorb twice the CO2 produced by the average car's annual mileage.
• Improving air quality - Trees filter airborne pollutants and can reduce the conditions that cause asthma. Asthma incidents increase in urban communities where trees are eliminated in favour of new roads, homes, or commercial developments.
• Reducing flooding - A healthy 100-foot-tall tree has about 200,000 leaves. A tree this size can take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it into the air again as oxygen and water vapor in a single growing season.
• Increasing urban cooling - The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
• Supporting biodiversity - Native tree species support natural ecosystems by providing habitat and food for birds, mammals, and insects.
• Improving physical and mental health and wellbeing - Many studies show that Spending time around trees and looking at trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood.
We have been working with the Education Authority, the Woodland Trust and Keep NI Beautiful ECO-Schools Project to engage with schools in Belfast. We have also been liaising with the Voluntary, Community and Small Enterprise Panel within the Belfast Community Planning Partnership and the Community Climate Action Working Group (part of the Belfast Climate Commission) to get local community groups involved. We are working with businesses through Community NI and hope to get residents involved too!
We benefited by investing a lot of time in developing the partnership and processes at the start and are seeking to make the project as holistic as possible, addressing supply, tree planting, land availability, maintenance, and communications across several work streams involving our partners.
We have a core partnership with the Woodland Trust and Belfast Hills Partnership and the project is led by Belfast City Council, so having the roles clear was also important.
We were able to secure some external funding and have political support within Council.