Oped

The cheapest way to tackle climate change

- Bharat Chand

Jul 13, 2019-

Two neighbors of mine residing near Special Chowk of Budhanilkantha Municipality recently had a skirmish over the issue of cutting down the trees from the sparse tree area just behind their residence. One of them was advocating for letting the trees be intact by convincing the residents of what a tree can do to the residents nearby. The other neighbour, however, was of the opinion that although he is well aware of the benefits of having trees nearby, he is compelled to have them cut owing to certain necessities. This issue, of whether to cut a tree or not, especially the ones in their vicinity is not limited just to the two of them. It is something that concerns most of us, both nationally and internationally. 

Warming of temperature is a major issue that does not discriminate between a developed country and a developing country. But in the United States, since the Trump Administration took office, the focus has shifted away from tackling climate change--a global issue, to merely putting the interest of America first over other issues. This shift in focus also saw the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. But tackling climate change is not the responsibility of the so called big and powerful countries like America or China alone. A changing climate impacts us all and it is a collective responsibility to stop the temperature from rising further. 

According to the global data, there are more than 1.7 billion hectors of treeless land globally--almost the total area of the US and China combined. There are many reasons why deforestation has taken place at such a massive rate. The felling of trees in the name of infrastructural development is one of the top reasons. This trend has actually cost us huge. Global warming is now a reality we have to deal with the average temperature rising by about 0.8 degree Celsius since 1880. Trees absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global warming. Therefore planting trees is the cheapest way to tackle the issues of a changing climate. 

China’s ambitious plan on the plantation of trees in the Hebei province that surrounds Beijing is worth mentioning in this regard.  The government has planned to utilise more than 60,000 PLA soldiers to plant trees in the accumulated area of 84,000 sq. km this year to increase the percentage covered by forest from 21 percent to 23 percent by 2020. Other countries taking significant steps in curbing  climate change include the UK, Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Finland and Costa Rica and India.

Talking about efforts at home, the government of Nepal recently unveiled an ambitious plan of planting 50 million trees in the fiscal year 2019-20 as part of a nationwide campaign dubbed the ‘Year of Plantation’. The government aims to plant saplings in and outside forest areas as part of its efforts to increase the tree canopy. The slogan Hariyo ban Nepal ko Dhan used to once represent Nepal accurately. But over time, the area covered by forest in the country has been depleting. Therefore, the need of the hour is for the government to put up a scientific national plan to expand the green cover. Yet, having said that it is it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that their surrounding is green. If the government is serious about making its drive to plant 50 million trees this fiscal year, every person should at least be planting five to six trees. 

Such a participatory approach would not only help the government reach its goals but also will allow the citizenry to feel some kind of ownership. Nurturing is equally important as planting it. Therefore, the commitment to afforestation must be sustained. In the long-run, such efforts will only serve the larger goal of reducing carbon emissions thereby making this plant a little more liveable. 

If the government plan becomes a success around 44 percent of the forested area in Nepal might help rejuvenate the drying up of water sources--already a serious problem in some parts of the country. It is said that the constitution of Bhutan has clearly made the provision of keeping at least 60 percent of the entire territory as a forested area. Effective policy to the protection of forested area in Bhutan can immensely impact the surrounding nations and may further help unite all South Asian countries to the same cause. 

It could take more than a hundred years to add enough mature forest to get sufficient levels of carbon reduction but we can all start somewhere. There is a popular Chinese proverb that says that ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now’. There is more than a grain of truth in this sentence since large-scale CO2 removal through reforestation will help offset emissions. Since climate change has already started impacting our lives, the government and the citizens alike should do their bit, in terms of formulating policies and changing their daily habits to make sure we hand over a liveable plant to the future generation.

Chand is a teacher. 

 

Published: 14-07-2019 07:42

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