According to a new United Nations report entitled Green is Gold: The strategy and actions of China's ecological civilization, China plans to build an “ecological civilization” that could see them become a model for the rest of the world. A significant part of the project includes an initiative to cover 23% of the country with forests by 2020.
It is a well-known fact that forests are an important part of climate change mitigation because they act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing billions of tons of atmospheric carbon — helping to cool the biosphere and reverse some of the effects of global warming. They can also help to reduce erosion rates to topsoil, river banks and gullies.
Large-scale deforestation in northern China has contributed to loss of topsoil, causing huge storms that sometimes carry sand and dust as far as eastern Canada. China began a reforestation program in 1998, after devastating flooding of the Yangtze River was blamed on the loss of trees, which previously had acted as flood barriers.
According to the State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China, by quickly regrowing forests, these areas can help conserve over 581 billion cubic metres of water each year, while storing over 8.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere.
Zhu Guangyao, executive vice president of the Chinese Ecological Civilization Research and Promotion Association, called ecological civilization a new concept in the development of human civilization that requires respect for nature.
“The outdated view that man can conquer nature and ignore the bearing capacity of resources and the environment should be completely abandoned,” said Guangyao.
“Conscientious efforts should be made to live in harmony with nature, allowing for a new approach to modernisation characterised by such co-existence.”
The UN report also indicates, in addition to expanding forest cover, China is committed to reducing water and carbon footprints thanks to the adoption of cleaner technologies in various sectors of the economy.
Other targets for 2020 include cutting water consumption by 23 percent, energy consumption by 15 percent and carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 18 percent.