Getting down and dirty in the efforts to go green

20 Apr 2014

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The sky was gray when the workforce left the relative comfort of the bus. Once outside the workforce shuffled along to the edge of the forest, where the mixed group of people, including many women and children, gathered around to receive instructions on how to use the assorted shovels and pickaxes that lay in front of them.

Trudging through the forest with pickaxe in hand, a member of the group recalls the childhood joke that the only thing that got bigger the more that was taken away from it is a hole. And this was what they were all here for. To dig holes – holes in which small trees could be planted.

Staff from the UNDP China office had gathered together on this sunshine-filled Saturday morning to get down and dirty in a hands-on experience to help the planet grow and, at the same time, contribute to the reduction of the UNDP China Office’s carbon footprint.

This event was another initiative under UNDP’s joint project with Macao, the aim of which is to develop guidelines for forest carbon management. While tree planting is not the focus of the Macao project, the tree-planting day was a good education and awareness tool that brought people together. In addition, planting trees is an important component in China’s efforts to combat climate change, as trees not only absorb CO2 in their growth process but also bind soil, diminish water runoff, have a cooling effect, and are important contributors to local micro-climate.

The UNDP-Macao Project, formally known as the “UNDP-Macao Initiative for Carbon Sequestration through Sustainable Forest Management” project, focuses on the development of guidelines and regulations for a Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) based carbon sequestration programme in Beijing, demonstrating said guidelines and providing capacity-building and publicity events to promote a voluntary carbon market through SFM-based carbon sequestration.

During the 45-minute drive back to the inner parts of Beijing, one could see tired but satisfied faces all around. It had been an experience. Not only that, it had been good for the environment: a win-win scenario altogether. Looking at the day’s tally of more than 20 trees planted and even when deducting the hour-and-a-half bus drive to and from the site, UNDP China can look forward to a nice CO2 emissions reduction on its balance sheet – provided, naturally, that all the planted trees reach maturity. But that is another story.