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Youth pledge to plant 100 million trees to combat climate change

Nearly 150 kids from 70 countries unveiled a climate action plan in Helsinki on World Environment Day 2019.

Maailman koululaisten ilmastokokouksen nuoria istuttamassa puun taimia Pohjois-Karjalassa toukokuussa 2019.
Youths from around the world in Northern Karelia learning to plant seedlings. Image: Korpipaja / ENO Schoolnet

A week-long World Summit of Students for Climate (WSSC) concluded in Helsinki on Wednesday with the declaration of a Climate Action Plan 2019-2025. The agreement promises to plant 100 million saplings around the world.

Around 135 pupils and 100 teachers from 70 countries participated in this summit, where young delegates vowed to plant and adopt trees, and spread the message of combating climate change in their own countries. They said once the trees grow, three million tonnes of carbon dioxide is expected to be drawn out of the air by the year 2025.

More than 370 schools from 50 countries — including a few schools from Joensuu, Finland — have already signed up for the tree planting and adoption initiative.

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koululaisten ilmastokokous
Schoolkids at the climate change summit in Helsinki. Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

Adopt a tree for a euro

The schoolchildren's climate agreement specifies that participating schools can either plant trees or adopt trees to be planted by pupils in other schools.

Each year between 2019 to 2025, participating schools will plant half a hectare of tree saplings in places where forests have not been felled in the last 10 years.

Pupils from schools that will adopt trees, as suggested in the agreement, can collect money for the effort by taking up chores at home. The cost of adopting a tree is one euro apiece. The tree-planting activities will be undertaken in cooperation with local municipalities and states, who will help them find suitable locations.

The young delegates also vowed to adopt a number of initiatives in their own schools, including proactive recycling, weekly ecology lessons, eliminating the use of disposable plastic, climate issue training for staff and reduced consumption of foods with high carbon emissions.

"A lot has been accomplished here compared to adult climate change meets"

Finland's chief negotiator for climate change Outi Honkatukia extended her support to the pupils’ climate action agreement. "It's so great to see the kids’ energy, enthusiasm and concrete action plans. If we compare this to the previous climate conference we debated for two weeks whether to accept the IPCC 1.5 degree report or not, so much more has been accomplished here," Honkatukai said at the event.

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Outi Honkatukia koululaisten ilmastokokouksessa
Finland's chief negotiator for climate change Outi Honkatukia addressed the students. Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

Many industry leaders were at the event to encourage the schoolkids. "Keep on pushing. We will push too," Mika Tuuliainen, Chief Policy Adviser at Confederation of Finnish Industrie, said.

Pupils practice planting saplings in Eastern Finland

One part of the climate summit took place in the city of Joensuu and the municipality of Liperi in North Karelia, Eastern Finland, while another took place in Helsinki. The program included group work, workshops, lectures and visits to various destinations.

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Maailman ilmastokokouksen koululaiset kuuntelivat toukokuun lopulla Pohjois-Karjalassa ohjeita miten istuttaa puun taimia.
Delegates of the World Summit of Students for Climate, who learned to plant seedlings in Finland. Image: Korpipaja/ ENO Schoolnet

Pupils spoke about the effects of climate change in their own countries and discussed ways to combat it. One of the meeting days was dedicated to learning how to plant trees.

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Mika Vanhanen koululaisten ilmastokokous
Primary school teacher Mika Vanhanen established ENO (Environment Online) Schoolnet — a global school network and web community for sustainable development. Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

The purpose of the summit was to make the voices of young people aged 14-17 heard in climate matters and to highlight the importance of education in solving the challenges of climate change.

Joensuu’s ENO (Environment Online) Schoolnet — a global school network and web community for sustainable development — was responsible for organising this climate conference, which was supported by President Sauli Niinistö and many Finnish municipalities, local communities and companies.

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Joukko koululaisten ilmastokokoukseen osallistuvia nuoria
Joanna Chang, Grace Libongani, Otso Välimäki, and Juan Wehinger said learned a lot from each other at the school climate conference. Image: Laura Kosonen / Yle

Schools can sign up for the tree planting or adoption on the project's website.

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