China to tackle climate change with 'nature-based solutions'

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China said it will try to persuade other countries to support “nature-based solutions” to tackle the root causes of climate change, the country said in a position paper published ahead of a United Nations summit in New York.

As the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, China is set to garner attention at the U.N. Climate Action Summit due to start on Sept. 23, with environmental groups hoping it will deliver more ambitious pledges to tackle global temperature rises.

However, in a notice published on Tuesday, the country’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment stopped short of making any fresh pledges to curb carbon dioxide emissions, promising to support the “multinational climate process” and fulfill its pledges to the Paris Agreement in full.

China had previously concentrated on reducing emissions from its heavy industrial sectors, while maintaining high levels of economic growth, but the approach has been subject to diminishing returns.

It now plans to “proactively promote” nature-based solutions such as reforestation and the expansion of grasslands and wetlands. Total forest reserves in the country rose by 4.56 billion cubic meters between 2005 and 2018, and forests now account for just under 23% of total land.

Beijing will also call on other countries at the U.N. meeting to “fully consider the potential of the natural system to alleviate climate change and promote adaptation, while formulating climate change-related policies”.

Beijing also aims to expand carbon sinks capable of absorbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, work to cap fertilizer use, raise waste utilization rates at livestock farms and speed-up the usage of biomass energy, the report said.

The southwestern Chinese city of Kunming is set to host a major U.N. meeting next year to reach a new global post-2020 agreement to protect biodiversity, and the environment ministry wants to include “nature-based solutions” in any new deal.

China has been keen to connect the protection of natural ecosystems with the wider issues of climate change, said Li Shuo, a senior climate adviser with environmental group Greenpeace.

Cristiana Pasca-Palmer, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, told Reuters that unlocking financial support would be a major component of the new agreement, adding that “signals are good” for a strong deal to be finalised, with China set to play a leading role.

Reporting by David Stanway, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips