The task includes planting about 36,000 hectares of trees and about 30,667 hectares of grass each year, said Zhang Wei, head of the ecological protection and restoration department of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA).
The afforestation plan is part of China's efforts to fulfill its commitment to peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, as forests and grasslands are important carbon sinks that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The latest research shows that the forest overage rate at the end of last year has reached 23.04 percent from 8.6 percent in 1949. China aims to increase its forest coverage rate to 24.1 percent and its grassland vegetation coverage to 57 percent by 2025, as outlined in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) on the protection and development of forests and grasslands.
The country also aims to raise its forest stock volume to 19 billion cubic meters by the end of 2025, an increase of 1.4 billion cubic meters from last year. China has also established a new national park system to ramp up ecological protection. Over 1.1 million impoverished people have been hired as forest rangers in charge of protecting the country's forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts and wildlife.
The carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets are a huge opportunity for the development of forests and grasslands as the country eyes the expansion of forest coverage and the improvement of forest quality to facilitate the attainment of the climate goals and contribute to global ecological security.
China's forest carbon reserves have hit 9.2 billion tonnes, with an average annual increase of over 200 million tonnes over the past five years, which is equivalent to a carbon sink of 700 million to 800 million tonnes, according to NFGA data.
The country has created the world's largest planted forests, raising its forest cover from 12 percent in the early 1980s to 23.04 percent in 2020, with its forest stock volume hitting 17.56 billion cubic meters. As a result of sustained forest conservation and tree planting efforts, at least 25 percent of the global foliage expansion since the early 2000s came from China, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability in 2019.
He said China will also improve its measuring and monitoring of carbon sinks, promote carbon sink trading and explore ways to build a platform for forest and grassland carbon sink trading over the next five years.
In Inner Mongolia, an important ecological barrier in north China, an average of 600,000 hectares of land have been afforested annually over the past five years, raising the region's forest coverage rate to 22.1 percent.
Local forestry authorities in the region's Greater Hinggan Mountains Forest Area have been piloting a carbon sink trading project since 2014, allowing companies that surpass their emission caps to purchase carbon sinks in the area to offset excess emissions. By April this year, the carbon sink trade transaction volume in the area totaled 4.9 million yuan (about $757,340).
Zhang said the participation of private capital in the carbon emissions reduction campaign will be encouraged and that the government is ready to help key regions, organizers of major events, enterprises and the public achieve carbon neutrality with forest and grassland carbon sinks.
Date：August 25, 2021