Greening China helps lift Earth’s environmental profile
Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs".
Earth is greener than it was 20 years ago. That was the conclusion made by NASA in February this year after it compared satellite data from the mid-1990s to those of today using high-resolution imagery. The researchers found that the global net increase in green leaf area was mainly boosted by the tree-planting programs and intensified agriculture in China and India. Between 2000 and 2017, China alone accounted for a quarter of the global net increase in green leaf area, ranking first in the world.
This undated photo shows a woman posing with a willow tree planted to prevent desertification as part of the Ant Forest project, which was granted the United Nations’ Champions of the Earth award in September, 2019. [Photo: IC]
In fact, China’s greening effort started long before that. The Three-North Shelter Forest Program, also known as the Green Great Wall, the world’s biggest tree-planting project to keep the encroaching desert in the north at bay, which was started in 1978 by the Chinese government, has been listed as an eco-economic demonstration project by the United Nations Environment Programme. In recent years, China’s government has also strengthened its environment protection at the strategic level, reinforcing supervision and governance. This was evidenced by the addition of the ecological advancement being written into the 13th Five-Year Plan, China’s Constitution and the Constitution of the Communist Party. The country has also introduced and revised 9 ecological environmental laws and over 20 relevant administrative regulations. In 2015, China began to implement a new environmental protection law, the toughest ever in history. According to the law, pollution fines would no longer be capped, and officials responsible for any decisions leading to pollution or environmental degradation will be punished even after retirement.
Apart from state-led efforts, the general public has also actively participated in environmental protection activities. By the end of August, an afforestation project named Ant Forest had recruited 500 million people to a low-emission life, which resulted in carbon emission reduction by more than 7.9 million metric tons, and the planting of over 120 million real trees in China's most arid areas. Last month, the project was awarded the United Nations’ Champions of the Earth award in the Inspiration and Action category. This is the third consecutive year that a Chinese entity has won the UN's top environmental award.
China’s progress in ecological protection can also be seen in improvements in its air quality. Over the past six years, the average concentrations of the country’s PM2.5 and sulfur dioxide have continued to decrease at a two-digit rate.
Climate change is a common challenge facing humanity, and ecological construction requires global participation. China, as a developing country, has approved more than 30 multilateral conventions or protocols related to ecological protection, and signed more than 50 documents on environmental cooperation with Belt and Road countries as well as international organizations to establish the Belt and Road International Green Development Coalition. At the UN Climate Action Summit held late last month, China reaffirmed its commitment to strictly implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement and to achieve its contribution goal as scheduled. As a believer in the concept that “Clean waters and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver,” China will undoubtedly become a key participant, contributor and leading player in the global ecological development.