Reforestation project begins in south of France after summer wildfires

This comes as the government announces plans to plant one billion trees across France by 2032, a measure described as a ‘smokescreen’ by critics

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A reforestation project has begun in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur after the region saw 5,500 hectares of woodland destroyed by 352 wildfires this summer.

“With 1.5 million hectares [covered], the forests of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur represent 9.4% of French total woodland,” the Office national des forêts (ONF) has said.

The region is the second most forested in France after Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and 48% of its surface area is covered by trees, compared to a national average of 29%.

The ONF has developed several schemes to help with the reforesting project, including an initiative called ‘MedForFutur’, which aims to replant trees which are particularly resistant to heat and drought along the Mediterranean coastline.

Funding is also being allocated by regional authorities, whose president, Renaud Muselier, has promised to plant five million trees between now and 2028: one for each resident.

He hopes to transform Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur into a “carbon neutral region by 2050”.

On a national scale, President Emmanuel Macron announced on October 28 that he aims for France to plant “a billion trees” by 2032.

Across France, 72,000 hectares of forest has been burnt by wildfires this year, so the new trees will help to restore woodland habitats.

However, Philippe Canal, the deputy secretary of the Snupfen Solidaires union, has said that the government’s ambition “is not much more than what is done currently,” adding that 85 million trees are planted each year in France, equivalent to 850 million in 10 years.

He also claimed that the new trees will only benefit 10% of the land affected by climate change, and that the project does not currently have the funding to hire enough staff.

Eric Raffi, Snupfen Solidaires’ Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur representative, said that this is a “smokescreen to distract the population and journalists, while the state worries less and less about it.”

He added that the money spent on new trees should actually be invested in research into ways to make forests more resilient and protected, as ecosystems normally regenerate automatically after a destructive event such as a fire.

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