Forests to cover 25% of China in “eco-civilization” project
Nearly one quarter of China will be covered in forest by 2020 if the country implements its “eco-civilization” project, according to a new UN report.
The study was launched on Thursday by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
UNEP has released a series of reports at the Assembly that look at how countries can implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the first universally binding climate change agreement signed in December in Paris.
The reports assesses China’s plan to build an “ecological civilization”, Bhutan’s use of its novel Gross National Happiness Index, Germany’s attempts to build a circular economy, Costa Rica’s use of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and Botswana’s Natural Capital Accounting.
The research shows that, although Bhutan faces challenges related to socioeconomic issues, and trade and aid dependency, the country has made “impressive progress in recent years”.
Costa Rica’s PES initiative has also achieved significant results, with nearly 15,000 contracts signed with landowners to improve land management.
The programme has worked in over one million hectares of forests and has distributed over $300 million, according to the UNEP study.
Germany’s attempts to implement circular economy principles to its waste management strategy has led to significant increases in recycling rates, created thousands of green jobs and improved resource efficiency.
UNEP’s Green is Gold report also analyses the environmental dimension of China’s 13th five-year plan.
Under the plan, China has pledged to cut water consumption by 23 per cent by, energy consumption by 15 per cent and carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 18 per cent, all by 2020.
The “eco-civilization” plan will also see China increase its forest coverage to more than 23 per cent by 2020 and the share of days per year with good air quality in cities at the prefectural level will exceed 80 per cent.
The plan is designed to create a resource-saving, environmentally-friendly society that integrates ecological development with economic, social, cultural and political progress.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “There are numerous tools available for countries to develop an inclusive green economy, and in this report we see examples from across the developed and developing worlds.”
Mr Steiner added: “There is no one path to a low-carbon economy, but rather many different opportunities for countries to transform their economies and societies, and orient themselves toward sustainable development. The multiple pathways outlined in this report offer insight into what might work, and are a resource for governments looking to address resource and environmental challenges in non-traditional ways.”
The UNEP report shows that by the end of 2014, China had built 10.5 billion m2 of energy-saving buildings in urban areas – about 38 per cent of the total area of urban residential buildings.
China’s production of electric and hybrid vehicles also increased by 45-fold between 2011 and 2015.
China has also built the largest air-quality monitoring network in the developing world with 338 Chinese cities at the prefectural level and above now capable of monitoring six different air quality indicators.
Mr Steiner said: “If China succeeds in achieving these targets then it will have taken a major step towards shifting to a greener economy that uses resources more efficiently, limits the risks of climate change and improves the health of its people.”