Future projects of the world's largest tree-planting programme will attempt to address the problem of climate change while bringing benefits to local communities and conserving biodiversity.
The Chinese State Forestry Administration announced this month (11 May) that future tree planting projects will be guided by standards created by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, a group of academic institutions, companies and environmental organisations.
The alliance devised the standards to allow government agencies and the private sector to identify land use projects that bring multiple benefits — reducing the threat of climate change whilst providing livelihoods for local people, as well as conserving native plants and wildlife (see New standards to link climate, biodiversity and poverty).
According to the alliance, China's new tree-planting projects will be designed with the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism in mind. This allows industrialised nations that have ratified the climate change protocol to offset their emissions of 'greenhouse gases', which cause global warming, against investments in projects in developing countries that reduce greenhouse gas concentrations.
Planting trees can help mitigate climate change because trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
Although China has planted millions of trees since the 1990s, this work has tended to involve large areas being covered with plantations of a single species, often not native to China.
The State Forestry Administration's future projects will use primarily native species and ensure local participation in the creation and sustainable use of plantations as, for example, sources of timber or fuel.
Chunfeng Wang, deputy director of the administration's Carbon Sequestration Management Office, says the new projects will be assessed and potentially extended to existing reforestation projects.
"By the end of the year, US$50 million worth of land use projects worldwide will be using the [Climate, Community and Biodiversity] standards," said John Niles, the alliance's manager. "This represents a tremendous paradigm shift in land management for many parts of the world."
Read more about climate change in SciDev.Net's change climate dossier.