For turning the green good deeds of half a billion people into green trees planted in some of China’s most arid regions, Ant Forest mini-programme has been awarded Champion of the Earth for inspiration and action.
Launched by Ant Financial Services Group, an Alibaba affiliate, Ant Forest promotes greener lifestyles by inspiring users to reduce carbon emissions in their daily lives. When they do, Ant Forest rewards them with ‘green energy’ points, which can be used to plant a real tree.
The aim is to combat desertification, lower air pollution and protect the environment.
Ant Forest users are encouraged to record their low-carbon footprint through daily actions like taking public transport or paying utility bills online. For each action, they receive ‘green energy’ points and when they accumulate a certain number of points, an actual tree is planted. Users can view images of their trees in real-time via satellite.
The Ant Forest platform is also exploring innovative solutions to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of local people by leveraging the power of digital technology.
Since its launch in August 2016, Ant Forest and its NGO partners have planted around 122 million trees in some of China’s driest areas, including in desert regions in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai and Shanxi. The trees cover an area of 112,000 hectares (1.68 million mu) and the project has become China’s largest private sector tree-planting initiative.
Business units across Alibaba are also encouraging users to take part in Ant Forest. For example, if they use the second-hand trading platform Idle Fish to recycle old items, they can earn ‘green energy’ points.
Ant Forest’s recognition as a Champion of the Earth highlights the importance of ecosystem restoration in reducing the emissions fuelling climate change. In March 2019, the United Nations underlined the urgent need to protect the natural systems that sustain life by declaring the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021-2030.
China has long been committed to reforestation to improve its environment and tackle climate change. Authorities aim to increase the area of land covered by forests from 21.7 per cent in 2016 to 23 per cent by 2020. Since 1978, the country has been building a 4,500-kilometre Green Great Wall, also known as the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program, along the edges of its northern deserts to hold back the expanding Gobi desert and prevent soil erosion and land degradation.
Champions of the Earth is the United Nations’ flagship global environmental award. It was established by the UN Environment Programme in 2005 to celebrate outstanding figures whose actions have had a transformative positive impact on the environment. From world leaders to environmental defenders and technology inventors, the awards recognize trailblazers who are working to protect our planet for the next generation.
The awards have recognized innovations and change-makers, particularly in the field of renewable energy.
In 2018, the Zhejiang Green Rural Revival Programme won the award for inspiration and action for its work to regenerate polluted waterways and damaged lands; also in 2018, Cochin International Airport, the world’s first solar power airport, won the award for entrepreneurial vision; and in 2017, the Saihanba Afforestation Community was recognized in the inspiration and action category for transforming degraded land on the southern edge of Inner Mongolia into a lush paradise.