Premier Dalton McGuinty officially announced a project to plant 50 million trees across southern Ontario by the year 2020.

The plan, part of the United Nation's "Plant for the Planet" campaign, will cost the province $79 million and help remove 3.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"More trees in our cities means more natural beauty, and more shade to keep our houses cool so they use less energy," McGuinty said.

The plan, deemed "the most ambitious project of its kind in North America" by the UN, calls for as many as five million trees to be planted each year.

The new greenery is expected to remove an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to 172 million car trips by the year 2054.

The 50 million trees in Ontario will contribute to the UN's goal to plant one billion worldwide.

The premier said it's time for southern Ontario to catch up other regions in the province.

"We can see that today in northern Ontario there has ongoing effort to re-plant and regenerate the forest," McGuinty said.

"We haven't really had the desire or the will to re-claim some of our deforested land in southern Ontario, and that's what this is all about."

McGuinty also announced the government is implementing more green initiatives, such as integrating environmental education into all grades and developing a new optional Grade 11 course focused on the environment.

Other provincial green plans include:

  • Making $220 million in loans and grants available to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving and retrofitting buildings;
  • Setting ambitious but realistic targets to reduce greenhouse gases below 1990 levels six per cent by 2014, 15 per cent by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050; and
  • Launching a $650-million fund that will help secure the next generation of high-paying jobs for Ontarians by developing new clean and green technologies.

Although the project was officially unveiled Monday, about 2 million trees have already been planted in the Greenbelt, 1.8 million acres of protected land in southern Ontario.