By Zhang Rui
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) published a report on Kubuqi Business Model, which has created wealth through eco-restoration, in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, during the ongoing 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
It is the first eco-wealth report published by the U.N. authorities and the first case report recognizing China's work in ecological civilization construction.
Spanning over 118,000 square kilometers, the Kubuqi Desert is the seventh largest desert in China and was once a significant source of dust storms in northern China. However, for the last three decades, the Elion Group headed by Wang Wenbiao, has been restoring degraded land to support local economic growth, such as the company's liquorice plantations, by adopting the PPP mode of cooperation of public (government), private (enterprises) and local population (the locals).
The UNEP report, prepared from multiple surveys and field research over years. reveals stunning statistics of the total wealth created from Elion's ecological restoration business. Total accountable wealth reached 500,863 million yuan (US$72,589 million).
The restoration business has had big impact in many aspects: in poverty alleviation, per capita annual income increased from 747 to 17,000 Yuan (an average annual increase of 11.5 percent over the survey period) for a population of 100,000 people in the project area with Elion creating one million job opportunities.
Based on a social survey, Elion contributed about one-third of the annual growth, the total addition to local incomes being 8.4 billion yuan. The company also developed 243 patented technologies that cut reforestation costs by 2 billion yuan.
Elion also reclaimed and is currently restoring 4,475 square kilometers of land, sequestered 14.5 million tons of carbon, produced 18.3 million tons of oxygen, improved the habitats for plants and animals, and established 5,391 square kilometers of windbreaks.
UNEP) executive director Erik Solheim, speaking at a press conference to launch the report, said the Kubuqi Business Model is a role model for China and the world in terms of fighting desertification.
"The desert is not seen as a problem, but an opportunity for change, " he said. "It can lift people out of poverty, provide prosperity, develop the place while at the same time taking care of the desert and making it greener. This is such a fantastic result."
Solheim said the Kubuqi model should be promoted globally. It may not be completely copied to other countries who suffer desertification, but they could learn and draw on its experiences and technologies.
Wang Wenbiao, chairman of Elion Group, said the Kubuqi Business Model was about combining environmental protection with wealth making, combining ecology with industry, and combining enterprise development with combating the expansion of deserts.
"Through the PPP partnership mode, the environment is improved, enterprise profits and overall development becomes sustainable," Wang said, adding the Kubuqi model's success was also thanks to President Xi Jinping's significant strategic thoughts on ecological civilization.
Ecological civilization was listed, along with economic, political, cultural and social progress, as one of the goals in the country's overall development plan at the 18th National Congress of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, when Xi was elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
The Kubuqi model has become a name card for China's desertification control efforts. In order to promote and share the experience of combating desertification, the Kubuqi International Desert Forum was established in 2007 and has been held five times thanks to the support of governments at all levels, relevant departments, the U.N. and the UNCCD secretariat.
More than 2,000 political dignitaries, experts and ecological entrepreneurs from around the world have participated in field trips, professional exchanges and sharing experiences via forums to the great benefit of all.
The sixth Kubuqi International Desert Forum was held July 28-30, 2017, in the Kubuqi Desert in Ordos.