A heavily wooded area near blocks of flats in China
Photo by Word Forest

China’s Reforestation Journey

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The China Agreement in the CoP15 Biodiversity Convention held in China was to bolster cooperation on conservation and sustainable management of forests, combating illegal logging and associated trading. 

This was China’s first move in making a decision to support the global effort to reduce deforestation.  At CoP26, in Glasgow, China and the US made a joint statement which recognised that ending illegal deforestation would contribute to the goals of the Paris agreement. This Glasgow declaration on forests was welcomed and they stated their plan to work together against illegal deforestation by enforcing their respective laws. The decision of China, a major importer of products like soy, palm oil and paper pulp, to sign up the deal was not a one-off. This was a move to demonstrate the country’s engagement with the deforestation issue. 

Efforts that China has made: 

1998 – China’s floods brought home the catastrophic consequences of deforestation and the government embarked on trials of conserving natural forests in the upstream regions of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.

1999 – China launched the Grain for Green Programme, whose aim was to convert steeply sloped or ecologically fragile farmland into forests or grasslands. In this project, farmers were given subsidies or compensation to stop cultivation on these lands allowing them to turn to naturally regenerated forests. 

The northern part of the China Great Green Wall project was aimed at creating a protective belt of forests to combat desertification and soil erosion. 

2009 – China, at the UN Climate Conference, committed to increasing forest stock to 1.3 billion by 2020. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 2020 Forest Resources Assessment showed that there was more growth in forest coverage. 

Between the years 2014-2017, China brought in a nationwide ban on felling natural forests. 

2020 – The Chinese Government revised the Forestry Law for comprehensive Protection of Natural Forests.

The Green Belt Development which targets cities and urban areas to create green belts and urban forests to improve air quality, reduce urban heat island effect and as well as provide recreational spaces for residents. 

Urban woodland in China
Photo by Word Forest

Over the last 20 years, China has developed a highly effective model of domestic forest governance, focusing on the timber usage regulation, which is working. The timber supply chain management system includes guidelines, standards and legislation, and trials currently underway that will provide a solid foundation for managing the supply chains of agricultural products. 

China has always held that developed countries should take the lead in financing environmental protection, but at the Kunming biodiversity talks, China announced 1.5 billion yuan (US$235 million) for a new host nation fund to help biodiversity conservation in developing nations. The fund will be used for forests and sustainability. 

China has also made a lot of progress on using green financing to prevent harmful investments. Since then it has been publishing guides on green lending and risk control in overseas lending. China has also been mobilising public and private funds to help conserve forests, reforming the financial systems and avoiding harmful investments that lead to deforestation. 

China is also keen on trading its carbon credits, as its forest cover has tremendously improved. 

Cyprian Ogoti

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