The shadow chancellor began by highlighting Labour's manifesto strategies to tackle climate change, but when he mentioned his party's pledge to plant two billion trees by 2040 BBC host Justin Webb laughed. Mr McDonnell said: “The thing that people have been raising time and time again - a massive tree-planting programme. We’re talking about a billion new trees. It was two billion, a billion up to 2030…”
Unable to contain his laughter, Mr Webb interrupted the Labour frontbencher saying: “Once you’re over a billion, it doesn’t matter, does it?”
Furious, Mr McDonnell replied: “Justin, you laugh you know but in Ethiopia…
“You laugh, but in Ethiopia, it’s fantastic but it’s true, they planted 300 million in one day.
“Go look at the report, it was a phenomenal exercise of reforestation.”
Keeping on laughing, the BBC host asked Mr McDonnell to confirm whether he was indeed standing by his party pledge.Election 2019: Justin Webb laughs at Labour's two billion tree-planting promise (Image: BBC•SKY)Election 2019: Jeremy Corbyn claimed a Labour government will be 'environmentally conscious' (Image: GETTY)
Mr Webb said: “You’re actually standing by that two billion figure, which some people do laugh at.
“And I thought about it. But you stand by it? It is going to happen?”
The Labour candidate admitted: “When the experts came up with it I thought you’re having a laugh.
“But then I looked at it and actually that’s the scale we need to do it.
“And then I looked at what’s happening in other countries and it’s happening.”
The Labour Party launched the astonishing pledge on Wednesday when Jeremy Corbyn announced his party would plant two billion trees by 2040 - the equivalent of 200 trees a minute, according to the BBC.
Within the plan, Mr Corbyn’s party would invest £1.2billion to restore habitats such as woodlands across England.
Moreover, an extra £2.5billion would be used for the tree-planting programme across the country.
Following the announcement of the proposal, however, BBC journalist Chris Mason broke down the mathematics of Labour’s ambitious plan.
In a tweet, he stated: “Labour wants to plant 2 billion trees by 2040.
“That is, roughly, 100 million/yr Or 8.3 million a month.
“2 million a week, 300,000 a day, 2,400 an hour, every hr, 24hrs/day, 200 a minute #GE2019.”
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Once completed, the initiative could store 47 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year by 2050, Labour stated.
In a further boost, the programme would create an estimated 20,000 jobs in forestry management, while there would be a total of one million jobs created under Labouring the green sector.
Speaking at the announcement of the proposal, Mr Corbyn said: “I want to lead a Labour Government that next year will host the next climate change conference, and which will be much stronger than Paris.
“Our Government will be one that will be very environmentally conscious, it will bring about net-zero emissions.
“Our Government will work on the world stage to achieve that as well.”