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Forests planned to offset event’s greenhouse gases

Zheng Jinran
Updated: Nov 6,2014 9:36 AM     China Daily

Beijing to have 84 new hectares of woodland by June 2015.

Beijing will plant large areas of forest to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions caused during the APEC meetings, with planting expected to be completed by June.

During the weeklong Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings, 6,371 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents are expected to be emitted by the 15,000 participants through traffic movements, food and electricity consumption.

Therefore, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry will plant carbon sequestration forests covering about 84 hectares, with about half located in Huairou district, which is a major venue for the event, and the remainder in Kangbao county, Hebei province, the northwestern neighbor of the capital, according to a report from the bureau.

“It will take the forests about 20 years to neutralize the greenhouse gas emissions from the events,” said Dong Xuejun, deputy head of the Huairou district forestry bureau.

The amount of greenhouse gas emissions was calculated according to international methodology and has passed an audit by the China Green Carbon Foundation, a public fund, Dong said.

The trees planted in the carbon sequestration forests will primarily be fast-growing varieties suited to the local soil and weather conditions, such as Chinese pines and elms.

Such forests demonstrate China’s determination to reduce pollution and a growing awareness of environmental protection, Dong said.

Xu Jintao, a professor at the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering of Peking University, welcomed the plan’s positive influence to promote forestry development in China.

“Forests to neutralize carbon dioxide emissions are only pilot projects in China, without large investment or preferential policies to boost them,” said Xu, who is also an expert on resource economics.

He said the growth of carbon sequestration forest projects received a major setback after the Kyoto Protocol, the major document that promoted such projects worldwide, gradually lost its binding force in recent years.

China has advantages in expanding its forestry compared to other developing countries, Xu said, adding that with more attention and supportive policies from the government, the amount of land under forestry can grow quickly, which will be a great help in easing the current air pollution problems.

Xu’s concern at a lack of motivation for carbon sequestration forest projects in China has gained the support of other authorities as well.

The functions of forestry in environmental protection have not been given sufficient attention by many people, said Sun Zhagen, deputy chief of the State Forestry Administration.

But the first report to account for the value of forests, released by the State Forestry Administration and the National Bureau of Statistics on Oct 23, shows the importance of forests in a direct way, Sun said.

The report reflected the environmental value of forests in seven main categories, including water restoration, public recreation, air purification, oxygen release and carbon sequestration.

It is estimated that the environmental value of forests is worth 12.7 trillion yuan ($2.1 trillion) every year. Sun said if forests are damaged, the losses would be calculated not only in terms of the wood lost but also in environmental loss.