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North Korea has declared war on deforestation

The reclusive country is among the 195 nations gathered in the French capital this week to iron out a deal that would curb greenhouse gas emissions responsible for fueling climate change.

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Su Yong spoke at the Paris climate talks on Monday, saying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has launched a war on deforestation and is pledging to “actively engage” in global environment efforts, according to the Strait Times.

Kim “has declared war on deforestation and has put forward a massive project to turn all the mountains of the country into mountains of gold, thickly wooded with trees,” The foreign minister told delegates.

Ri told the delegates the country will begin a 10-year project to engage in a large-scale planting program that will help the “national effort to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ri also told the delegates North Korea plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37.4 percent, well below the levels recorded in the 1990s. The country’s carbon emissions fell through the floor with the economic collapse that occurred in the 1990s, but they have crept back up in recent years.

North Korea belongs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and as a member state, the nation’s government “will continue to faithfully discharge its responsibilities as a party to UNFCCC and actively engage itself in international efforts to protect the global environment,” said Ri.

North Korea’s loss of forest lands
In 1999, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was said to have been so concerned by the “bad air” in Seoul, South Korea that he bragged on the clean air in Pyongyang, his capital city. But with a failing economy, there was little money to spend on cars or the gasoline to make them run, says an LA Times article from that time.

The deforestation of North Korea began in 1995, according to the Asia Times, as people desperate for fuel to heat and use in cook stoves chopped down trees and denuded mountaintops. Soon heavy downpours washed away topsoil, and water runoff created flooding that swelled rivers and streams, resulting in a heavy loss of lives.

North Korea released figures showing 220,000 people died of famine between 1995 and 1998, but South Korean and U.S. estimates put the loss of lives at closer to two to three million people. From 1999 to the present, there has been a lot of talk about reforestation coming out of the country, but it wasn’t until June of this year that the world began to take North Korea seriously in the matter.

When Kim took the reigns of power, it is interesting to note the very first official he had executed was the minister of forestry, so if Kim is serious in this matter, then the world can only give him a “Thumbs Up” on the project, despite the loss of the head of forestry in the countey, but we will have to wait and see, won’t we?

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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