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Forests Make Great Contribution to Responding to Climate Change

State Forestry Administration

July 17, 2007

Climate change is the sharing crisis and challenge of the human society and has attracted extensive attention of the international community. Integrated management approach by seeking both temporary and permanent solutions shall be adopted in order to respond to the climate change and reduce the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. On one hand, industrial measures shall be taken to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas, on the other hand, biological measures including forestry-related ones shall be adopted in order to effectively absorb and fix carbon dioxide and improve the adaptability to the climate change.

I. Forestry plays an important role in slackening the climate change

Forests are the principal part of the terrestrial ecosystem and have multiple functions and benefits. Forests play a unique role in the response to the climate change and have great potential. Forests have been called the largest carbon pool and the most economic carbon absorber in the terrestrial ecosystem. The carbon is mainly stored in the forest vegetation and soil in the forest ecosystem. Forest plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is converted into carbohydrate, fixed and stored in the form of biomass. That process is called forest carbon sequestration. Scientific research shows that, the growth of forest stock volume per cubic meter can absorb averagely 1.83 tons of carbon dioxide and release 1.62 tons of oxygen. The carbon content of a forest plant accounts for 50 percent of its dry weight of biomass. According to the estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), out of the total 2.48 trillion tons of carbon stored in the global terrestrial ecosystem, 1.15 trillion tons is stored in forests. The report released by IPCC in 2000 said that, the forest area accounts for 27.6 percent of the world's land area, while the carbon storage of forest equals to 57 percent of the total storage in terrestrial ecosystem. At the same time, the conservation or damage of wetlands will also impact the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the damage to forests and wetlands is an important emission source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the protection of them is one of essential measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas globally. Hence, forests and wetlands are regulators of the climate and important buffers for controlling the earth warming, and can effectively absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slacken the global warming.

The issue of forest has important bearing on the sustainable development of the economy and society, the harmonious world, the human survival and development and the future and destiny of the human beings. It is an arduous task facing the global community to protect and develop the forest resources, protect the eco-environment and realize sustainable development. As a responsible large country, the Chinese government and its people are fulfilling its due obligations and duties in a practical way and will continuously enhance forestry development and incorporate forestry development into the global initiative of slackening global warming. While promoting forestry development and improving the eco-environment, endeavors have also been made to promote accomplishment of China's fixed task of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission.

II. China's great endeavors in developing and protecting its forest resources have made great contribution to the response of climate change.

Since new China was founded fifty years ago, the Chinese government has been engaged itself in improving the eco-environment, extensively establishing new afforestation, actively cultivating plantation, expanding and developing its forest resources. Especially for the recent 30 years, Chinese government vigorously organized and conducted plantation, mountain closure and middle and young aged forest tending, implemented a series of key forestry programs in succession like "Three North" Shelterbelt Development Program, Natural Forest Protection Program, Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program, Forest Industrial Base Development Program in Key Regions with a Focus on Fast-growing and High-yield Timber Plantations, Sandification Control Program and Nature Reserve Development Program, and accelerated the pace of plantation and greening. The preserved area of plantations amounts to 54 million hectare ranking the 1st in the world with the total stock volume of 1.505 billion cubic meters. Since 1981, China continuously conducted the nationwide compulsory tree-planting campaign, hundreds of millions of people participated in compulsory tree-planting each year. Till now, the number of people that have participated in compulsory tree-planting campaign has amounted to 10.4 billion person times, with 49.2 billion trees planted in accumulation covering an area of 219,000 km 2. Meanwhile, China's city greening has developed quite fast. Till 2005, the greening cover area in cities of China amounted to 1.06 million hectare, accounting for 33 percent of the total city area, and the public green area in cities per capita was 8.1 square meters. The achievements gained in China's afforestation and greening career have been highly valued by the international community. The recent global forest resource situation report issued by FAO pointed out that during 2000-2005, under the situation that global forest resource continuous decreased, forest area in Asia Pacific area increased, among this, the increase of China forest resource, especially the increase of plantation resource greatly offset the decreasing tendency of forest area in other area.

China's forest resource conservation and nature reserve development has gained significant achievements. China has successively promulgated 6 forestry laws, 14 forestry policy regulations, 31 forestry sector rules and more than 300 local regulations and rules, and has initially established forest resource conservation and management law system with the core of Forest Law and the Wildlife Protection Law. China has fundamentally established forest resource conservation and management system with the main body of forestry policy management, and two wings of resource monitoring and resource supervision, established professional teams and public forester teams in forest policy management, timber inspection, forest policy checking, forest pests and diseases prevention, control and quarantine, wildlife management, forest resource supervision and forest police. During 2001-2006, China investigated and punished 2.5441 million cases with the rate of 98.33 percent. China took over 2.5866 million cubic meters of timber related to the cases, retrieved the economic loss of 4.052 billion yuan, and implemented administrative penalties of 2.5176 million person times. Meanwhile, China organized and conducted a series of special improvement activities, strictly cracked down on criminal activities like breach of privilege in forest land, excessive deforestation and hunting. Till now, there are 2,349 nature reserves of various types in China, accounting for 15.2 percent of total land area, among which, 1,706 were managed by the forestry sector. The nature reserves established by the forestry sectors alone have put 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem, 45 percent of natural wetland, 85 percent of wild animal populations, 65 percent of higher plant communities, and 20 percent of natural high quality forest under effective protection.

China's forest area and stock volume have increased in quite big scale. According to the result of 6th National Forest Resource Inventory, China's forest area has expanded from 82.80 million hectare in 1949 to 175 million hectare, the forest cover has increased from 8.6 percent to 18.21 percent; the total standing stock volume has reached 13.618 billion cubic meters, and China's current annual increasing stock volume is about 500 million cubic meters, reversing the negative tide of continuous drop of forest stock volume for a long time, and entering a new phase that both the forest area and the stock volume are increasing. With the increasing of China's forest resource, the annual amount of absorbed CO2 increased gradually. In 2004, net absorption of equivalent CO2 by China's forest was 500 million tons. Development and protection of China's forest has made great contribution to absorption and fixation of CO2, realizing reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emission, and mitigating global climate change.

III. The main idea, objective and method of China's forestry in coping with climate change

Coping with climate change is the common responsibility of the international community. The Chinese government has actively responded to the climate change and issued recently China's National Climate Change Program. Forest sector, as a member of the newly-established National Leading Group to Address Climate Change, Energy Saving and Emission Reduction should play an active role and make due contribution. China's forestry should follow the requirements of scientific development concept, strictly carry out the relative tasks in China's National Climate Change Program, place a series of measures including increasing carbon fixation by forests in a proper position, fully bring out forest's great potential in carbon sequestration, and make an active contribution to mitigating and adapting climate change.

(I) Speeding up the pace of afforestation and silviculture to expand cultivation and management of forest resources. It is to conduct the nationwide compulsory tree planting campaign and promote continuously implementation of key forestry programs including Natural Forest Protection Program, Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program, Forest Industrial Base Development Program in Key Regions with a Focus on Fast-growing and High-yield Timber Plantations, the Shelterbelt Development Program in the "Three North" and the Yangtze River Basin, Sandification Control Program and Wetland Conservation and Rehabilitation Program. Natural forests should be well protected and managed to promote shift of natural forest ecosystem from degradation to rehabilitation. The step of tree planting and afforestation on barren and sandy lands needs to be quickened and plantation scale to be appropriately enlarged to gradually increase forest area and resources. The efforts should be made to make forest cover reach 20 percent of the total land area by 2010 and over 26 percent by 2050, by then, over 80 million hectare of forest area will be increased. The annual net absorption of equivalent CO2 by China's forests will be increased by 90.4 percent compared with that in 1990. The forest tending and management require enhancement, and mountain (sand) closure for natural regeneration, middle-aged and young forest tending need to be conducted to improve quality of existing forest stands. We strive, in the next 30 to 50 years, to double forest annual increment, reaching 1 billion cubic meters and to double carbon sequestration of forest ecosystem.

(II) Strengthening protection and management of forest, vegetations in sandy land areas and wetlands and effective conservation of existing forest resources and nature ecosystem. Exam and approval system of logging quota and occupation and requisition of forest land must be improved and implemented, timber logging and forestland protection and management be strictly carried out, various kinds of criminal activities of destroying forest resources including illegal occupation and requisition of forest land, and illegal and devastative timber cutting be stopped to have effective protection of forest resources. The comprehensive monitoring system of nationwide forest resources and status of ecology, and monitoring, warning, prevention and control system of forest fire and pests and diseases will be set up and improved to prevent and control forest fire, pests and diseases. Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserves Development Program and Wetland Conservation and Rehabilitation Program and Sandification Control Program should be implemented in order to expand wetland and nature reserve areas and increase vegetation cover in sandy land areas. In 2010, the area of nature reserves in China will account for 16 percent of the total land area, about 90 percent of the typical forest ecosystem and national key wildlife will be effectively protected; 22 million hectare of sandification land will be effectively controlled; 50 percent of the natural wetland with the area of about 18 million hectare will be under effective protection, and the forest's absorption and fixation of carbon dioxide and emission reduction will be further increased.

(III) Developing forestry biomass energy. The State Forestry Administration will sponsor together with China National Petroleum Corporation to establish China Green Carbon Fund in order to encourage enterprises to participate in development of forestry biomass energy and in tree planting and forest management for carbon sequestration. We will provide subsidy for tree planting, make tax revenue policy, draw funds from the society and invest funds into afforestation. The compensation system of ecological forests for public benefits must be improved and forest classification and reform be carried out. The biomass energy relevant to forests should be actively developed and biomass energy plantation bases be established. It is planned to set up 13.333 million hectare of high-yield and good-quality biomass energy plantation bases in 15 years. The State Forestry Administration will respectively have cooperation with China National Petroleum Corporation and China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import & Export Corporation to cultivate and develop forestry biomass energy and produce biological diesel oil and ethanol, and use biomass to generate electricity in order to increase clean energy supply and replace chemical and petroleum fuels. China National Petroleum Corporation has planned to invest 300 million yuan into afforestation and forest management and into establishment of biomass energy plantation bases, aiming at absorbing and fixing CO2. It is expected that 5-10 million tons of CO2 can be absorbed in 10 years.

(IV) Promoting timber saving and rational use of timber and increasing carbon storage function of wooden forest products. Activities of fuel-wood saving by refitting stoves in vast mountainous and forest areas and replacing fuel-wood with coal, gas and electricity should be conducted to reduce timber consumption. Development and use biogas and other renewable energy by taking measures suited to local conditions in forest areas should be encouraged and supported. Fuel wood forests will be actively established, and people are encouraged to use fast-growing timber and composite materials to promote integrated use of timber. Classified recovery and reuse of old and waste wood products should be carried out to raise reuse rate of timber resource and increase indirectly timber supply.

(V) Improving and implementing relevant laws and regulations and policy mechanism. The Forest Law and Wildlife Conservation Law need to be revised, and special laws and regulations including Law on Nature Reserves, and Rules and Regulations on Wetland Conservation, Nature Forest Conservation and Forests, Trees and Forest Land Use Rights Circulation must be promulgated as soon as possible. It is to add and intensify the legal provisions responding to climate change in relevant laws and regulations. Law enforcement system and dynamic supervision mechanism need to be improved and law enforcement and inspection be enhanced. Tree-planting target management responsibility of the governments at different levels and greening responsibility of different departments should be continuously improved, forms of nationwide compulsory tree planting be developed and relevant policies be made. Fund and technical inputs need to be increased and policy support be provided. It is to set up long-term and effective working mechanism of China's forestry coping with climate change.

(VI) Strengthening technical research and development, extension and application. Development and research on techniques of preventing and controlling forest fire, pests and diseases, on selection of tree species with cold, draught, pest and disease resistance will be conducted to increase competitiveness and adaptability of forest plants in climatic adaptation and migration. The technology of biodiversity conservation and rehabilitation, especially relevant techniques of conservation and rehabilitation of nature reserves in forest and wildlife types, wetland, mangrove forests, conservation of endangered wild fauna and flora, establishment of fast-growing and high yield timber forests and fuel wood forests should be developed and used to reduce impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Positioning observation and monitoring of forest resources and forest eco-system, and monitoring technique of ecological environment should be strengthened in order to increase alarm and emergency capability.

(China Development Gateway July 17, 2007)

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