Countries should work together on nature-based solutions, experts say
Climate experts are calling on China and the US to tackle climate change together through integrating nature-based solutions to the warming of the planet.
Such solutions, which harness the power of nature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hold significant promise but need more research and investment, said Ken Alex, director of Project Climate at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.
"This is a large opportunity for both the US and China and allows for cooperation and learning in both directions," he told China Daily.
Examples of nature-based solutions could include tree planting, restoring wetlands, increasing sequestration of soil, and changing the diet of livestock. In addition to reducing emissions, a nature-based approach also could help maintain a sustainable food supply, enhance water purification, reduce flood risk and avert disasters.
Nature-based solutions are a relatively new concept increasingly being discussed by policymakers and researchers around the world as an approach to mitigating climate change.
According to the United Nations, nature-based solutions could deliver more than a third of the reductions in emissions needed to reach goals to curb global warming by 2030.
China and the US already are investing in nature-based solutions. Together with New Zealand, China co-led the United Nations' Climate Action Summit's nature-based solutions action area in 2019. The Leaders' Summit on Climate, hosted by US President Joe Biden in April, also highlighted such approaches.
Alex said scientists in California have found that adding compost to range land and crop land can increase soil sequestration of carbon and increase yields. Others are working on using mineral additives to crop land, with good results, he said.
In addition, work is being done at Berkeley and Tsinghua University and elsewhere to reduce methane emissions, a major contributor to rising greenhouse gases, from agriculture, including from cattle and rice production, Alex said.
"Expanding research and projects in California and China will speed the effort and, potentially, adoption," he said, adding that China is planting a lot of trees, which the US and California can learn "a good deal" from.
"I'm also thinking of Yuan Longping, who … had a dramatic impact on much of the world by improving yields of rice fields. These breakthroughs are more likely if we work together," Alex added, in reference to China's "Father of Hybrid Rice", who died on May 22.
Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer at The Nature Conservancy, or TNC, said US-China collaboration is essential in a world in which people are striving to address the dual crises of biological-diversity loss and climate change.
"We are the US and China, the two largest global economies; we are significant influencers across the globe, we are the largest greenhouse gas emitters. For all of those reasons, US and China collaboration really is essential to driving these nature-based solutions at scale," she said at a recent webinar organized by the California-China Climate Institute.
Scarlett also pointed to California－a conservation pioneer in the US and a state that has a longstanding partnership with China on climate change－as a key partner in taking US-China collaboration to the next level.
In an email to China Daily after the webinar, Scarlett said the TNC is working with government and academic partners in China to enhance carbon sequestration for soil and water quality.
Since 2018, the conservancy has been working with the local government to restore the degraded lands in the Danjiang watershed, an important source of water for the middle route of China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project, she said.
Both the US and China have an increasing focus on "putting nature" back into cities, she said.
California's Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said in the webinar that the Golden State is increasingly integrating nature and biodiversity conservation in its climate change strategies.The state has learned a lot from China in different areas of climate action but has not had the opportunity to collaborate closely with the country in biological diversity and nature-based solutions, he said.