China pioneering green path: study

Updated: 2016-06-21 10:32

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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A new study shows that China's $150-billion-investment in conservation and restoration over the past 16 years have paid off and the country is inspiring other countries to follow its lead.

The eight-year-long study, conducted by an international research team in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, appears in the June 17 issue of Science.

Officials in China began considering significant environmental reform following a series of natural disasters in the late 1990s that were exacerbated by human activities, according to the report.

The investments since the year 2000 have been increasingly finely targeted toward places and the landholders living there to open more livelihood options for them and enable a shift in livelihood activities toward conservation and restoration of ecosystems, said Gretchen Daily, an environmental scientist at Stanford and senior author on the study.

"As a result, China's forests, grasslands, shrub lands, and other key ecosystems have improved in quality since 2000," she wrote. "This improvement is expected to pay off in terms of lower flood risk and impacts, higher water security, higher energy security and greater climate security, reduced sandstorm risk and impacts, and overall improved local livelihoods."

China pioneering green path: study

The team, part of the Natural Capital Project, a global partnership trying to mainstream the values of nature into decision-making, used their self-developed software to identify which environmental areas should be protected or restored to provide the greatest benefit.

The innovation is focused on shining a light on the many ways in which people depend on nature and the ultimate goal is to open innovative pathways to sustainable, green growth, said Daily.

China has been innovative in conservation science and policies in order to achieve its dream of becoming the ecological civilization of the 21st century, she said.

"China has very advanced science linking ecosystem conditions to human well-being - relating, for example, how changes in forest coverage affect flood, energy and water security," she said.

Forests are like sponges, soaking up and holding water, and meting it out gradually. This is especially crucial in China, where most rainfall is concentrated in about three months of the year - and where there have been utterly devastating floods exacerbated by deforestation, she explained.

"The policies are innovative in providing eco-compensation, whereby the (often downstream or downwind) consumers pay the suppliers, in order to enable suppliers - often poor farmers in remote places - to choose the livelihoods focusing not only on crop production but also on production of a wide array of other benefits from land," said Daily.

"This will move local economies more to a green growth pathway, where natural capital is an engine of growth and innovation," she added.

While China is only in the first phases of transformation, its policies are relevant globally, said Daily.

"Many countries are following China's lead here," she said. "Countries want to achieve the dual goal of poverty alleviation together with inclusive green growth. China is pioneering a path."