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The Toronto Star Published an Article by Consul General Han Tao
2019/11/08

On November 5th, 2019, the Toronto Star published a signed article by Consul General Han Tao titled "Green is golden". Here is the full text:

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Over the years, tremendous changes have taken place in China, from a poor and weak country, into the world's second largest economy, with average life expectancy rising from 35 to 77. Meanwhile, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty, forging the world's largest middle-income population, over 400 million.

These achievements may often be mentioned, but what people may not notice is that China has also made great progress in environmental protection.

In 1986, I began my career in Beijing. At that time, Beijing suffered sandstorms almost every year in spring. In severe cases, the yellow sand blocked out the entire day-time sky, plunging the city into a night-scape. It was not possible to comfortably walk on the street without a headscarf or a gauze mask.

The history of sandstorms in Beijing can be traced back to the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. After 1949, the Chinese government resolved to tackle the environmental problems that had plagued residents in northern China for hundreds of years.

In 1978, a decision was made to launch the Three-North Shelterbelt Program (TNSP), which aimed at converting multiple deserts into oasis through large-scale afforestation drives .

The TNSP has a timeline of 73 years (1978-2050) and an eight-phase plan, covering 13 provinces and 551 counties, accounting for 42% of China's total land area. It is currently in its fifth phase.

Over the past 40 years, the Chinese government has afforested a total area of 301,430 square kilometres within the TNSP region, its forest coverage has increased from 5.05% in 1977 to 13.57% in 2018. The TNSP won the award of Good Practice on Implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests.

After decades of relentless effort, sandstorms in Beijing are now a thing of the past. The campaign against desertification is just one example of China's achievements in environmental protection over the past 70 years.

At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2017, President Xi Jinping stressed the country's three major challenges. They are forestalling and defusing major risks, carrying out targeted poverty alleviation, and preventing and controlling pollution.

In 2017, China's total investment in environmental pollution control was 953.9 billion yuan (roughly 177-billion Canadian dollars), accounting for 1.28% of the GDP in the same period. This marked a 7.2 fold increase compared with 2001 and an average annual growth rate of 14%.

China also participates actively in international cooperation on climate change. In December 2015, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted a landmark document, the Paris Agreement. China was not only an important driving force for the agreement, but has also been one of its most compliant states.

In February of this year, NASA posted a set of images on Twitter that showed the significant increase in the earth's vegetation areas over the past 20 years. NASA's analysis indicated the main contributors were China and India. According to an article published on the Nature magazine in the same month, China alone accounted for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area.

China is ready to deepen exchanges and cooperation in the areas of climate change and environmental protection with all countries in the world, including Canada, so as to bring more green land, clear water and blue sky to the people of the world and to our next generation. As we believe lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. In other words, green is golden.

(The "Three-North" region refers to northwest, north and northeast China)

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