Fighting Deforestation, Climate Change and Bad Air Quality in China
About Photo: A community member observes the impacts of deforestation in Sichuan Province, China. The Conservancy works with local communities, government and private companies to create incentives for forest protection and restoration in Sichuan and Yunnan — combating greenhouse emissions, improving air quality, and restoring habitat for native species.
China’s meteoric economic rise in recent years has brought significant benefits, but in many ways it has taken place at the expense of the environment — especially the country’s forests. The impacts of China’s deforestation hurt local communities and wildlife, who suffer from polluted waterways, contaminated air, and reduced habitat. The global community also feels the impact, since deforestation contributes to climate change and its effects — such as sea level rise and worsening storms — that we feel here in Hong Kong.
China’s forests have provided the firewood fuel to power furnaces in factories and private homes, but massive deforestation has resulted in damaged water resources, polluted air, barren landscapes surrounding communities, and reduced habitat for emblematic species, like giant pandas. Fuel wood collection alone contributes to the loss of more than 120,000 hectares of forests every year in Yunnan Province — an area about the size of all of Hong Kong. Read More
Earning from Environmentalism in Tengchong County
In Tengchong County, Yunnan Province, the Conservancy and our Conservation Champions have changed the equation when it comes to the math of protecting versus destroying forests. Together, we’re paying community members to look after forests, rather than cutting them down to sell as firewood. “This is the first time I’ve received payment for maintaining a standing forest instead of selling wood,” says local resident Li Minghu.
Today, the Jietou community is protecting and restoring 460 hectares of forests, and is earning one million yuan in compensation. But that’s not all:
- 277 Tengchong households are receiving payments for restoring and protecting forests, instead of chopping them down.
- 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide will be sequestered over the next 25 years thanks to this project, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.
- Wildlife like gibbons and takin have newly restored habitat to thrive in.
The project is small relative to China’s size, but as one of China’s earliest carbon projects, a primary objective is to showcase that this model can work and be replicated on a grand scale — for the sake of nature, and for the benefit of local communities and people all over the world hoping to slow global climate change.
You can help restore China’s forest too, and capture carbon. A monthly donation of $500 could help plant 500 trees, providing the habitat Yunnan Golden Monkeys and other wildlife need to survive. Find out how your donations can make a difference.
Restoring Forests and Combating Climate Change Throughout Yunnan
Our forest conservation projects funded by others like you are benefitting people and wildlife across Yunnan — and the positive spillover from these projects is having a regional and global impact by reducing pollution, saving endangered species, and sequestering climate-change-causing greenhouse gases.
For example, the Conservancy has installed more than 10,000 alternative energy units in Yunnan — units like fuel-efficient stoves and solar water heaters.
- These units have resulted in a 35-75% decrease in household firewood consumption, which has in turn significantly reduced deforestation.
- The units have also led to a 50% decrease in indoor carbon monoxide and particulate matter in residences, reducing the respiratory ailments often caused by smoky indoor cooking fires.
- The reduced need for firewood and subsequent drop in deforestation has resulted in 150,000 tons of carbon emissions reductions.
- It has also preserved the forests, which serve as the habitat for the endangered Yunnan Golden Monkeys.
New Forests in Sichuan Improve Community Life and Reduce Carbon Emissions
In the Liangshan region of Sichuan Province, deforestation has taken a toll, leaving local people and an abundance of wildlife increasingly pressed for the resources they need to survive. But today, the Carbon for Parks project — a new partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Novartis, the Chinese government and Liangshan communities — is restoring nearly 3,900 hectares of the lush forests that used to define this region.
It’s a bold project, and one that will have significant and measurable benefits for the climate, for species like the giant panda and for the Yi people who have long called this region home. Restoration work is being done by local villagers, who are being paid for their work, and forest patrol and management positions will create 40 long-term jobs in the region. The new forests will help maintain clean water sources, and we’re also helping to create sustainable agriculture projects that will provide steady income for local people.
The Carbon for Parks project is slated to have a 30-year lifespan. Over that period, reforestation efforts will remove 40,000 tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year. As a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project, Carbon for Parks will create carbon credits and demonstrate that stopping climate change can be profitable for communities and corporations alike.