China to plant forest the size of Ireland

China has announced plans to plant new forests in 2018 that will cover at least 6.6 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Ireland.

The State Forestry Administration of China announced its ambitious plans to increase the country’s tree-covered territory from 21.7% to 23% by 2020. New trees will be planted in the Hebei province, Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Hunshandake Desert in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Zhang Jianlong, head of the administration, said that by 2035 the figure will be up to 26 per cent.

China is regularly named and shamed as being among the world’s biggest polluters, but has been trying to clean up its act in recent years. In 2014 China, which has seen its cities blighted with chronic air pollution due to rampant industrial expansion in the past few decades, declared a “war on pollution”. As well as cracking down on polluting companies and punishing officials who break environmental rules, forest expansion and cleaning up polluted rivers have become top priorities.

Mr Zhang Jianlong said that the country had spent over 538 billion yuan (£61bn) on planting forests in the past five years, raising the total amount of it in China to 208 million hectares. Looking further ahead, Jianlong also said that by 2035 the country aimed to up this threshold of tree-coverage to 26%.