Mr Erik Solheim, former Executive-Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has commended China’s environmental protection and tree planting campaign.
Erik gave the commendation during a virtual awareness campaign on tree planting to encourage environmental protection in Beijing, China.
He said a beautiful picture of ecological progress could unfold globally, saying China could play a unique role in forest conservation and prevention of deforestation.
“During tree-planting activity in Beijing on April 4, President Xi Jinping told students around him to encourage children to plant trees, when they become parents someday.
“As a man who grew up in Beijing, he had memories about Chinese scholar trees, Ebenaceae, malus spectabilis, pomegranate trees and jujubes always seen in traditional courtyard houses in the Chinese capital.
“Afforestation has become a belief passed from generation after generation in China; it awakens people’s awareness for environmental protection and nurtures China’s green development philosophy.
“Through tree planting, China has optimized its environment, greened its mountains and kept people’s nostalgia, laying a solid foundation for achieving sustainable development, and inheriting Chinese civilization.
“Tree planting is a tradition, an obligation and part of daily life of Chinese people, it will create not only lucid waters and lush mountains, but invaluable assets, making China even more beautiful.”
He said that based on official statistics, China had added over 22 million hectares of forest in the past 10 years and contributed a quarter of global new forest area, as the highest globally.
He also explained that in China, there was a special holiday in Spring known as the National Tree Planting Day thousands of years ago.
He described the tradition as sticking willow branches on doors during the Chinese Qingming Festival, which already started.
He quoted a traditional saying in China that a tree planted in Spring would grow into a forest in Autumn.
“In the country, tree planting is a matter of everyone, from national leaders to citizens. The Chinese people have always placed huge importance on tree planting.
“It symbolizes revitalization, sustainable development and inheritance of Chinese civilization.
“The Chinese government has even introduced a policy that awards every Chinese citizen who plants three to five trees a year with an honorary certificate,” he said.
Emperor Shun, a traditional leader of the Tribal Alliance in the primitive society of China, regarded as one of the ancestors of the Chinese nation, had been appointed minister for management of forestry affairs.
He said China had achieved prominent results in promotion of systematic governance of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, deserts and large-scale land greening programmes.
According to him, almost every dynasty in Chinese history has taken measures to protect forests and rewarded people for tree planting.
He observed Sun Yat-sen, the first statesman to have called for “the revitalization of China,” had advocated tree planting in modern China.
“On March 12, 1925, Sun passed away, and the then government of China called on the country to plant trees in memory of the statesman.
“This tradition has been kept since the founding of China, which marked its 45th National Tree Planting Day this year.
“According to plan, China will build green areas of at least 100 million mu, approximately 6.67 million hectares, this year.
“Thus, between 1982 and 2021, Chinese citizens have voluntarily planted approximately 78.1 billion trees across the country.
“China planted trees on 1.02 billion mu of land since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012: Chinese forest coverage now stands at 24.02 per cent, up from 21.63 per cent decade ago.”
Erik was Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive-Director of the United Nations Environment Programme from 2016 to 2018.