BEIJING (XINHUA) - China plans to plant 500 million mu (33.33 million hectares) of forests and grasslands in the next five years - 100 million mu per year - to help achieve its carbon emission reduction goals, according to the country's forestry authorities.
The task includes planting 54 million mu of trees and 46 million mu of grass each year, said Mr 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 fulfil its climate change commitment to peaking carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, as forests and grasslands are important carbon sinks that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
China aims to increase its forest coverage rate to 24.1 per cent and its grassland vegetation coverage to 57 per cent by 2025, as outlined in the country's 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 metres by the end of 2025, an increase of 1.4 billion cubic metres from last year.
The carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets are an 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 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 per cent in the early 1980s to 23.04 per cent in 2020.
As a result of sustained forest conservation and tree planting efforts, at least 25 per cent of the global foliage expansion since the early 2000s came from China, according to a study published in the journal Nature Sustainability in 2019.
In addition to afforestation, Mr Zhang said work will be carried out to improve the quality of forests and their ability to reserve carbon. He said work will be done to protect natural resources to reduce carbon pool loss, and forest bioenergy will be developed. Construction materials such as steel and cement will be replaced with bamboo and timber to cut emissions.
Over the next five years, 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, he said.
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 per cent.