Mongolia’s Khuvsgul Lake National Park has been added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO. It is an important step as Mongolia fights the effects of climate change by launching various initiative to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and stop rampant desertification.

The integration of Khuvsgul Lake as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was made during the 34th session of the International Co-ordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere Programme taking place in Paris, Mongolia Ministry of Environment and Tourism said in a statement.

Khuvsgul Lake is located in the northern Mongolian province of Khuvsgul near the Russian border, holding nearly 70 per cent of Mongolia’s fresh water, or 0.4 per cent of the world’s total. The lake is 1,645 meters above sea level, 136 km long and 262 meters deep.

Mongolia 9 Biosphere Reserves

According to UNESCO, the biodiversity surrounding Lake Khuvgul is unique to Mongolia. The lake’s vast areas are untouched and uninhabited by humans, which enables the growth of rich, fragrant and brightly coloured wild plants. Its varied ecosystems are home to a variety of unique species including some that are rare and endangered such as snow leopards, ibex, Siberian musk deer, moose, reindeer, red deer and brown bears.

Approximately 7,000 people live in the biosphere reserve, where they engage in animal husbandry, tourism and the use of natural resources. Local inhabitants and people from neighbouring districts harvest nuts and fruits during the autumn season.

According to the ministry, as a result, the number of Mongolian Biosphere Reserves designated in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves now tops nine remarkable sites. They are the Great Gobi Biosphere Reserve (designated in 1990), Bogd Khan Uul Biosphere Reserve (1996), Uvs Nuur Basin Biosphere Reserve (1997), Hustai Nuruu Biosphere Reserve (2002), Dornod Mongol Biosphere Reserve (2005), Mongol Daguur Biosphere Reserve (2007) and Toson-Khulstai Biosphere Reserve (2020). In 2021, the Uvs Lake Depression Transboundary Biosphere Reserve was designated as a transnational Biosphere Reserve between Mongolia and the Russian Federation.

The Mongolian government sees the Biosphere Reserve status as a tool to promote internationally the importance of the area while contributing at the same time to the conservation and sustainable development of the lake.

Panoramic view of Lake Khuvsgul (Photo: Zoharby, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Mongolia fights hard to mitigate climate change

UNESCO recognition comes at a peculiar time. According to the Mongolian government, the country is today one of the most affected by climate change despite contributing only to 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change has intensified over the past 80 years in Mongolia, with the average air temperature increasing by 2.25°, which is twice the global average. In Mongolia, 76.9% or 120 million hectares of the total territory is affected by desertification, and half of the total area is classified as severely desertified. Compared to 1990, the number of climate change-related natural disasters has tripled in Mongolia in the last decade.

Mongolia is now embarked into a drastic program to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and turn into a green economy. The country needs US$11.5 billion to meet its nationally determined contribution target. Of this, US$6.3 billion is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and US$5.2 billion to adapt to climate change. An action plan to implement this goal was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in 2021.

Camels in Gobi steppe grass landscape (Photo:, CC0 Public Domain)

Following the ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, Mongolia set its goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 22.7% by 2030. The country aims to cut emissions from the energy sector by 49.4%, followed by the agricultural sector with 31.3%, the industrial and construction sector by 12.5% and the transport sector by 6.2%. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism coordinates the various measures and activities which include the use of renewable energy sources, the isolation of prefabricated apartments in Ulaanbaatar, the regulation and reduction in the number of livestock, and recycling waste. The most spectacular initiative launched by Mongolia presidency is the “One Billion Trees” national movement.

This national initiative was set in October 2021 and looks at planting and growing a billion trees by 2030 with the purpose of increasing greenhouse gas absorption, reducing soil degradation and preventing water scarcity. The fact that Khuvsgul Lake National Park is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve will help to further protect an important natural asset for the country while making visitors aware of the necessity to change their way of life and consumption…

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