The Billion Tree Movement in Mongolia – The Diplomat
The 2022 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow was an eye opener for Mongolia. After attending the conference, the President of Mongolia, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, launched a national movement to plant 1 billion trees by 2030 as part of Mongolia’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Nations, as well as a means of combating desertification, deforestation and food insecurity.
Since November 2021, the President’s Office and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism have been actively promoting the national One Billion Tree movement. In March, the president officially announced the start-up phase of the project. In June, 21 provinces (aimags) and 330 sub-provinces (sum) participate in the seeding process.
In a five-minute promotional video, governors from different provinces pledged to plant 20,000 seedlings in their respective provinces. Provinces such as Selenge, Darkhan, Bayankhongor, Tov and Dornigovi have already started the sowing process.
The President’s Economic and Environmental Policy Advisory Team, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, encourages mining conglomerates and other public and private sector entities to participate through government contracts. Since November 2021, 21 major companies such as Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, Oyu Tolgoi, Tavan Tolgoi, Energy Resource and Erdenet Mining Corporation have signed government contracts and pledged to plant 608.5 million trees.
In a combined nationwide effort, the president hopes to sow around 640,000 seedlings at a cost of 4.3 billion tugriks. According to the Mongolian Mining Journal, Mongolia will devote 1% of its national GDP to the One Billion Tree megaproject.
When discussing the environmental issues of Mongolia, it is important to note that the northern parts of the country and its ecosystems are very different from the south, where the Gobi Desert occupies a vast territory. The provincial administration of Dornigovi said that due to the unique environment and ecosystem of the Gobi Desert, the trees and plants that will be sown in this area will be different from other areas and will require additional care. These regions are already fighting against desertification.
Mongolia’s extreme climate and diverse ecosystems pose a challenge to policy makers seeking to implement realistic and sustainable action-based goals. In different administrations, Mongolian policy makers have initiated and implemented various environmental policies. But these efforts are often interrupted by elections, leading to changes in national and provincial administrations. Consequently, these green projects have rarely even received the necessary funding, let alone positive results. It’s fair to say that climate change hasn’t really been a top priority for the Mongolian government.
According to the Montsame news agency, the Mongolian national movement One Billion Tree will be implemented in three phases. The first phase will be completed by 2024 and the scaling up process will take two years, from 2024 to 2026. By 2027, participatory parties should already be in a sustainable phase.
Khurelsukh hopes the national One Billion Tree movement will continue even after his only six-year term as president, which ends in 2027. During his address to the United Nations General Assembly, he reiterated the struggle of the Mongolia against climate change, especially emerging issues such as deforestation. and desertification. These issues in many ways illustrate the broader struggle in highly urbanized modern Mongolia, where indigenous sites are being taken over by heavy mining industries.
On the other hand, the Mongols, known for their nomadic lifestyle, traditionally did not live in one place for an extended period of time. Therefore, agriculture and prolonged environmental protection have never been a breadwinner for Mongolian society.
As the global fight against climate change has become a major topic for environmentalists and conservationists, it is in Mongolia’s interest to be informed, involved and active. Given Mongolia’s vast landscape, it is imperative that policymakers implement policies that both address current problems and help prevent further harm. Can Mongolia’s national One Billion Tree movement be such a dual purpose policy?
From a policy perspective, implementing this megaproject will require ongoing federal and local funding. Equally important, the continuity mechanics must prove that Khurelsukh’s initiation is not just a showcase for Mongolia, but an action-based struggle against many emerging issues. The greatest hope is that the participating parties will pick up the torch and continue the movement beyond any political change.