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China's Plans To Reach 'Net Zero' Include Planting Forests The Size Of Belgium

The Chinese government has made a big announcement regarding their plans to plant trees. Specifically, the economic powerhouse plans to plant a forest the size of Belgium — and do it every year for five years straight.

The ambitious plan is part of a larger rollout aimed at improving the country's ecology.

Forests are good.

Unsplash | Geran de Klerk

It's no secret that forests help the ecology of our planet, while deforestation hinders it. But in order to reap these benefits, and undo the harm done by deforestation, it's necessary to plant a lot of trees — and China plans to do exactly that.

What's the plan include?

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The reforestation plan is the attention-grabbing announcement.

Vice-chairman of China's State Forestry and Grasslands Commission Li Chunliang announced, "By 2035, the quality and stability of national forest, grassland, wetland and desert ecosystems will have been comprehensively upgraded.

The forests will cover 14,000 square miles.

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14,000 square miles dwarfs the size of Belgium, which is 11,849 square miles. What's more, China plans on planting one of these massive forests every year for five years straight.

They'll be concentrated largely in the drought-prone northern and western parts of the country.

Is anything else planned?

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China's plans may focus on reforestation, but it's part of an overall ecological effort. Officials say they'll also crack down on illegal trafficking of wildlife, along with expanding the country's national park and forest system.

They've learned from past problems.

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The ongoing Great Green Wall program, which started in the late '70s and is slated to end around 2050, was designed to stop the Gobi Desert from expanding. But because the crops planted weren't diverse enough, the project has yielded mixed results.

How much will this reforestation move the needle?

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China is the third-largest country in the world by landmass, coming in at about 3.7 million square miles (that's bigger than Belgium, btw). While planting five forests bigger than Belgium is a big move, they'll only increase total forest coverage in China by less than two percent.

It's still a meaningful move.

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China has ascended to its current position as the world's second-largest economy through aggressive industrialization and massive infrastructure projects.

While this has led to an economic boom, it's come with a few costs, one of them being negative environmental impact.

China has set a carbon emissions goal.

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While China was the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2020, the government plans to bring these numbers down.

It'll take time, but officials are hopeful that this tree-planting initiative, along with others, will bring carbon emissions down to net zero by 2060.

The reforestation should prevent future droughts.

Unsplash | Johannes Plenio

Creating new forests will have a few effects: aside from pumping more oxygen into the atmosphere, deeper root systems should keep soil in place and hinder future droughts while creating habitats for local wildlife.

It's an ambitious plan.

Pexels | Akil Mazumder

While we live in an increasingly industrialized world, it's good to see plans that focus on the natural environment. It'll be fascinating to see how China's reforestation plan shapes it — and influences others — in the years and decades to come.