Climate Change and Forest

Nowadays, global climate change characterized by warming has become one of the grave threats to humans and received worldwide contemplation. Addressing the climate change has been a focal point in today’s world politics, economy, environment and diplomacy. To address the climate change and to save the Earth, homeland of the humans, is destined as the common mission of the international community.

Forestry plays a unique role in addressing the climate change and has been incorporated into the international agenda to address climate change. Forestry actions, such as tree-planting as well as  improvement of forests management and protection to increase carbon sink and to reduce carbon emission , have been universally acknowledged as the important measures of economically practical in the next 30 to 50 years in climate change mitigation and adaptation. In pursue of popularizing the addressing climate change knowledge from the forestry sector, disseminating the low carbon & green concepts, advocating public participation in the construction of carbon forestry, the feature column “Information Panorama from China’s Sector in Address Climate Change” is co-sponsored, in a series, with joint efforts from Green Times, SFA’s Afforestation Department (Climate Change Office) and China Green Carbon Fund. We appreciated your interests and thank you for your attention.

Climate Change

It is defined in the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” that “climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

Carbon Sink and Carbon Source

It is defined in the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” that “Carbon Sink” means is any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. “Carbon Source” means any process or activities which release a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Forests carbon and forestry carbon

Forests carbon means any process or activities or mechanism that forests vegetation absorbs or fixes the CO2 from the atmosphere in the vegetation or the soil by photosynthesis, thus reducing the CO2 concentration. While the forestry carbon means any process or activities or mechanism that combines the forests carbon and associated management policies, inclusive of carbon trade.

GHG & Greenhouse Effects

GHG means the gas that increases the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. The GHG gases listed in the UNFCCC are : Carbon dioxide (CO2 ), Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofuuorocarbons (HFCS), Perfluorocarbons (PFCS) and (SF6).

Greenhouse effects means the greenhouse gas can let Sun’s short wave radiation pass through freely and meanwhile absorb the long wave radiation  emitted from the ground (infrared), resulted in the temperature rise on the Earth surface and the lower atmosphere. It is so called the greenhouse effects since it is similar to that of the plant greenhouse.

Carbon Forestry and Carbon Afforestation

Carbon forestry targets the accumulation of carbon sequestration as its principle objective in addressing climate change. It covers five aspects: ①In conformity with the national social-economic sustainable development objective and the national program strategy in addressing the climate change.② In addition to accumulate carbon sequestration, it aims at elevating the stability, adaptation and the overall service functions of the forests ecosystem, pushing forward the biodiversity and ecosystem protection, promoting the community development and bringing into full play the multiple benefits of the forests. ③ Set upA a technical technic-support safeguard system that both gearing to the international track and applicable to China’s practical circumstances will be established. ④Raise the awareness of the general public in addressing climate change and the protection of the climate.⑤Apply market mechanism and legal framework to foster the forestry ecosystem service market.

Carbon afforestation describes that the increase of carbon sinks is the principle purpose of such activities of afforestation with special requirements on a piece of baseline already defined land.   Carbon accounting and monitoring will have been implemented all through the whole processes of afforestation, forest stand increment. In contrast to the popular afforestation, carbon afforestation stand out its carbon sink function and attached with special technical requirements for carbon accounting and monitoring and also stress the multiple benefits of the forests. Any  forested plantations that being carbon accounted and monitored by the certified Unit can be deemed as the carbon forests provided that such afforestation follow the carbon afforestation technical specification and perform the acceptance procedures in accordance with the inspection and acceptance specification of the carbon afforestation.

Summary of “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”

On June 4th 1992, 154 countries signed the UNFCCC at the United Nations Environment and Development Summit in Rio De Janeiro Brazil. The Convention came into effect on March 21st 1994 and it is joined by 194 countries as of today. UNFCCC is the first kind of international agreement in addressing the global warming in a drive to combat the adverse effects to human society and economy as well as in full control of CO2 GHG emission. Additionally, it has been one of the fundamental frameworks for international cooperation among the international communities in addressing climate change issue.

The Convention is composed of 26 articles of preface, definitions, objectives, principles and commitments and others which constitute a general framework for the international community in combating together the challenge of climate change. The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Based on principle of “with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”, the obligations and responsibilities for developed country parties and developing country parties are differentiated. The Conventions states that the developed country parties shall take corresponding measures to limit the GHG emission with an aim of returning to their 1990 levels in addition to provide new and additional funding as well as technical support to the developing country parties to combat climate change and raise their economic and social sustainable development capability while the developing country parties has no legal binding obligation in emission reduction but to provide the list and formulate and implement the related concepts.

China Confronts Seven Big Challenges in Addressing Climate Change 

According to “China National Program to Address Climate Change”, China confronts seven big challenges in addressing climate Change.

①The critical challenge of existing economic development structure.

At present, there has been no precedent example of achieving a high level of per capita GDP with low per capita energy consumption. Inevitably, the energy consumption and the CO2 emission will be continuously increased as China’s economy grows at high speed. Thus, China confronts the challenge of creating an innovative and sustainable development structure.

Huge challenge to China’s coal-dominated energy structure

As long as China’s coal-dominated energy supply and consumption structure can not be changed substantially in the long run in the future, the task of decreasing its carbon emission per unit energy consumption confronts more difficulties than other countries.

Severe challenge of independently developing the innovative energy technology

As China is now undergoing large-scale infrastructure construction for energy, transportation and buildings, the features of intensive emissions associated with these technologies will exist for the next few decades if advanced and climate-friendly technologies could not be made timely available. This poses severe challenges to China in addressing climate change and mitigating GHG emissions.

Varieties of Challenges from forests resources protection and development

To combat climate change, it is necessary for China, firstly, to accelerate the restoration of forests vegetation and wetland to increase carbon sequestration; and secondly, to strengthen forests protection and management to raise the forests adaptation capacities. The gross forests resource is gravely insufficient in China. Acidification, desertification, soil erosion, and wetland degradation still remain as severe environmental problems, the forests resources in China are far from meeting the needs for social and economic development. Lands available for afforestation/reforestation are mostly located in China’s northwest region suffering from sandy or rocky desertification, which pose a great challenge to forestation and ecological restoration.

Protracted challenges on adaptation to climate change in China’s agricultural sector

In coping with the climate change, how to rationally adjust agricultural production distribution and structure, improve agricultural production conditions, control the prevalence of plant diseases and pests/insects and spread of weeds, reduce production cost, prevent the potential desertification expansion, and to ensure the sustainable development of China’s agricultural production are some of the aspects that pose protracted challenges for China agricultural sector in terms of improving its capacity of adapting to climate change.

New challenges on China’s water resources development and conservation

How to enhance water resources management, optimize water resources allocation, strengthen infrastructure construction, ensure the anti-flood safety of large rivers in key cities and regions, promote nationwide water-saving program, guarantee safe drinking water and sound social and economic development, and make a good use of river functions while protecting aquatic ecosystem are the long-term challenges on water resources development and conservation in terms of enhancing climate change adaptation capability.

Realistic Challenges on China’s coastal regions in adapting to climate change

Coastal erosion, seawater intrusion, soil salinization and back flow of seawater into the river estuaries caused by sea level rise will be among realistic challenges in coping with climate change in China’s coastal areas.

Relevant Forestry Policies and Measures Embedded in the “China National Program in Addressing Climate Change”

A. Forestry Policies and Measures Relevant to Mitigate the GHG

a. Strengthen the promulgation and implementation of forestry legal framework .The formulation, amendment and streamline of forestry laws and regulations has been accelerated. Specific rules and regulations have been formulated such as Natural Forest Protection Regulation and Forest Product and Forest Land Circulation Regulation. The forestry laws and regulations have been perfected, enforced and inspected. Public supervision and dynamic inspection regimes of forestry law enforcement has been established.

b. Reform and perfect the existing industrial policy. The afforestation target responsibility mechanism for various levels of government institutions had been continuously upgraded and further explored the multiple approaches of citizen voluntary tree planting scheme under the market economy environment.  The policy in regard to promote citizen voluntary tree planting and the profound development of the greening work by the various institutions have been codified. The afforestation and reforestation work will be further deepened through the adjustment of relevant industrial policies so as to increase forest resources and forest sequestration.

c. Stress priority in the implementation of the national key forestry ecological programs. The construction of national key forestry ecological programs will be continuously pushed forward, i.e. Natural Forest Protection Program; Farmland Conversion back to Forest (Pasture) Land Program; Green Shield around Beijing-Tianjin Program; Building a Green Wall for Mountains and Rivers Program; the Protection of Wild Fauna and Flora as well as the Development of Nature Reserves. Additionally, manage well the biomass energy forest bases development. The effective implementation of above said key programs will further protect the existing forest carbon storage, increase the territorial carbon stocks and sequestrate the carbon.

B. The Relevant Forestry Policies and Measures to the Adaptation of Climate Change

a. Formulating and Implementing the relevant forestry rules and regulations to the adaptation of climate change. Accelerating the amendments of the “The Forestry Law of the People’s Republic of China” and the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Wildlife”, drafting the “The Nature Reserve Protection Act” and promulgating the Wetland Protection Regulation.  Articles and Clauses of adaptation to the climate change will be added or upgraded to the relevant legalized frameworks so as to provide the legal guarantee for raising capacity of adaptation to climate change of the forest and other nature ecological system.

b. Reinforcing the effective protection of existing forest resources and other nature ecological system. Strictly enforce the logging-ban in the natural forest areas for protection, preventing the ecosystem of the natural forest from degradation and evolving to the progressive growth. Implementing the wetland protection program and efficiently reducing human interference and damage and deterring the wetland decrease trend. Expand total area and improve the quality of nature reserves and develop bio-corridors among reserves. Strengthen forest fire control by establishing perfect system for forest fire monitoring, early warning, fire suppression and fire retardant as well as forest fire assessment regime. Integrate existing forestry monitoring resource, establish and further perfect a comprehensive monitoring mechanism for the national forest and ecological reserves. Reinforce the forest pest management including perfect the system of early warning, quarantine and adversities prevention.    

c. Strengthen technology development and extension. Research and develop forest fire control and forest insect and disease control technologies. To improve the adaptation capacities and competitiveness of forest vegetations to climate change by selecting preferent tree species that are resistant to cold and drought as well as resistant to pest and disease. Develop technologies for biodiversity conservation and restoration, particularly those technologies related to management of forest and wildlife nature reserves, wetland conservation and restoration, and conservation of endangered wild animals and plants to alleviate the impact of climate change on biodiversity. Promote technologies for monitoring forest resources and forest ecosystems, including those for forest environments, desertification, wild animals and plants, wetlands, forest fire, forest pest and disease. Improve monitoring network and management system to enhance forecasting, early-warning, and emergency responding capacities.

The Important Significance of the Promulgation and Implementation “Forestry Action Plan to Climate Change”

The Chinese Government attached great importance in addressing the climate change issue. “China’s National Program in Addressing the Climate Change” was released in June 2007 (The National Program) in which forestry has become the critical aspect in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change in China. It is stressed in the Chinese Communist Party Central committee’s first forestry working meeting that the forest has the unique position in addressing climate change and emphasized that “in addressing climate change, forestry development must be the strategic choice”. In accordance with the National Program, the State Forestry Administration promulgated the “China’s Forestry Action Plan in Addressing the Climate Change” which has been studied, extended and implemented by various level of forestry institutions.

The implementation of the Forestry Action Plan is instrumental in bringing about the pledge made by President HU Jintao. The President solemnly declared at the Unite Nations Climate Change Summit in September 2009 that “China will remarkably increase its forest carbon sequestration by setting forth the dual increase targets, i.e. based on the 2005 level, the forest areas will be increased by 40 million hectares and the forest stocking volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020” .  This has been the critical measures for China to act in addressing climate change and the Forestry Action Plan has been the concrete operation in putting this measure into effect.  The implementation of the Forestry Action Plan is to fulfill the tasks endowed by the National Program in which forestry has been clearly incorporated in the six key areas in mitigating the climate change and in the four key areas in adapting to climate change. The Forestry Action Plan has put forward the concrete measures in fulfilling the National Program and provided the guidance for various forestry institutions to work with one heart and coherently push forward the work in addressing the climate change to ensure the practical results being accomplished.
The implementation of Forestry Action Plan is to meet the needs of building up the ecological civilization and further bringing the forestry role in addressing climate change into full play. China’s forestry is endowed with the mission of building up the ecologic system, protecting the wetland ecosystem, improving the desert ecosystem and maintaining the bio-diversity. The forest shoulders arduous tasks of supplying eco products, material products, eco cultural product and it is the undertaker. Forestry provides multiple benefits with the dual functions of mitigating and adapting to climate change. The implementation of the Forestry Action Plan will undoubtedly promote the increase of China’s forest resources and the improvement of ecosystem as well as reinforcement of forest carbon sequestration. So embodies the role of building up the ecological civilization and elevating the capability of China’s forestry in addressing the climate change.

Main Content of China’s “Forestry Action Plan to Climate Change”

“China’s Forestry Action Plan in Addressing Climate Change” was released by the State Forestry Administration in November 2009 in which five basic principles, three phased-period objectives and twenty-two major areas of actions as well as 7 safeguards measures have been set forth.

The five basic principles are: ① persist in integrating the forestry development objectives with the National Strategies in addressing climate change. ② persist in integrating the forests area expansion with the forests quality improvement. ③ persist in integrating the increase of carbon sequestration with the carbon emission reduction. ④ persist in integrating the Government’s leading role with public participation. ⑤ persist in integrating the mitigation with the adaptation.

The three phased-period objectives are: Phase 1:  by 2010, the annual afforestation area will be over 4 million hectares with the forests coverage up to 20% and forests stocking volume up to 13.2 billion m3. . The will be a relative increase in national forests carbon sequestration capabilities. Phase 2:  by 2020, the annual afforestation area will be over 5 million hectares and national forests coverage will be increased to 23% and forests stocking volume up to 14 billion m3. . The national forests carbon sequestration capabilities will be further elevated. Phase 3: by 2050, the forests areas will have a net increase of 47 million hectares in comparison with that of 2020. The forests coverage will be up to and stabilize at 26% or above. The forestry development priority will be transformed to the stage of comprehensive sustainable forests management and the forests carbon sequestration capability will remain on a constant scale.

The implementation twenty-two major actions are comprised of fifteen major forestry actions in dealing with the climate change mitigation and seven major forestry actions in climate change adaptation.

The fifteen major forestry actions in dealing with the climate change mitigation consist of:

Push forward the nationwide voluntary tree-planting campaign;

Implement key afforestation programs in efforts to continuously expand the forests areas;

Speed up the tendering of rare tree species for production forest;

Carry out the integrated program of combining the energy forest cultivation with its processing and use;

Enforce sustainable forest management approaches;

Expand mountain-enclosure forest areas for natural regeneration and supplant the pure plantation in a scientific way;

Reinforce logging management of the forests resources;

Strengthen the management of forestland requisition and expropriation;

Improve forestry law enforcement capability;

Improve forest fire prevention capability;

Raise capability in forest disease and pest prevention and control and that of the damages caused by rats and hares;

Rationalize the development and use of biomass material;

Strengthen the high and efficient recycle use of timber;

Set in motion the rescue operation to protect and restore the critical wetlands;

Launch Agriculture-Forestry-Fishery sustainable development demonstration.

The seven major forestry actions in dealing with the climate change adaptation consist of:

Raise the adaptability of the plantation ecosystem;

Establish nature reserves of typical forests strains;

Intensify the conservation of critical forest species;

Improve the monitoring early warning capability in the epidemic and disease of the wild animals;

Strengthen the vegetate protection in desertic areas;

Strengthen the fundamental work of wetland conservation;

Establish and improve the wetland nature reserves network.

Six Approaches from China’s Forestry Sector to Mitigate the Climate Change

According to “China’s Forestry Action Plan to Address Climate Change”, there exists six approaches in mitigating the climate change which are:

1. By the way of tree-planting and afforestation to expand the forests areas and increase carbon sink storage. Based on the mid- and- long term forestry development objective specified in the “Resolution of Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and State Council on accelerating China’s forestry development”, the forests coverage will be up to over 26% at 2050. The forests carbon storage will be remarkably increased at the time.

2. By the way of increasing carbon stock by improve existing forests quality. Majority of the existing forests in China belong to plantations or secondary forest of low biomass. It is absolutely possible to double the unit forest stand increment to increase the existing forests carbon sequestration capability.

3. By way of reinforcing forests protection to reduce forests carbon emission. Firstly, forests degradation activities such as requisition and expropriation of forestland will be strictly controlled to reduce the carbon emission originated from the forests. At the same time, due attention will be given to forest grounds vegetation and soil protection during the timber logging operation by scientific planning and low intensity operational measures. By so doing, the carbon emission resulted from logging damaged vegetation and soil can be reduced. Secondly, effectively control the frequencies and impacted areas of forest fires and forests pest and diseases by the way of reinforcing the restrain of flammable materials and establishing forest fire and forest pest and diseases early-waning system.

4. The GHG emission in the forests will be decreased through wetland protection and the control of water loss and soil erosion in the forests. In the first place, reinforce the wetland protection will resulted in the reduction of GHG emission due to less wetland being damaged. And secondly the water loss and soil erosion in the forests will be contained by increasing biomass to protect and accelerate the forestland soil conservation. The forests carbon fixation capability will be increased by transforming the non forest soil to forest soil.

5. To reduce the carbon emission by developing forest provided biomass fuel to substitute the fossil energy. Wood products biomass materials can be directly burned or transferred into ethanol with cellulose hydrolysis, or pyrolysis gasification. The fruits of the bio-energy trees can produce diesel. They can partially substitute the fossil energy which will reduce GHG emission. Meanwhile part of the biomass fuel forest can be specifically silvicultured in the areas such as waste hills and waste land, alkaline soil land or mined reclamation land which is suitable for tree planting to increase the proportion of forest biomass fuel with the fossil energy. Thus, China’s aggregate GHG emission will be reduced.

6. To increase wood products carbon stock by increase timber use and extend the life span. The energy consumption in the timber production process is largely lower than the GHG emission generated from the iron and aluminum manufacturing. The use of wood products to partially substitute the energy intensive materials can not only increase carbon stock, but also reduce carbon emission generated from the fossil energy used in the raw material production. The research indicates that the use of timber to substitute the construction materials of cement and bricks, one cubic meter of timber can reduce 0.8 tons of CO2 –e which can save energy and also reduce pollution. Wood products are the important carbon stock as long as it is without putrefaction and burning. According to the experts’ estimation, China’s wood products carbon stock had been at 1.2 billion tons to 1.8 billion tons of CO2 –e in the period of 1961 to 2004. This is the important contribution in mitigating climate change from China’s forestry.



Organized by China Green Carbon Foundation  

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