Canopies of trees in China are not only adding touches of green across the country but playing a pivotal role in reducing carbon uptake and curbing the impact of climate change.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping recently announced that China aimed to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, many world leaders were sceptical. And for good reason…
China is the world's biggest source of human-produced carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions. If its goals for a cleaner city is to be achieved, it would need to implement radical steps – and that’s what it’s been doing.
According to scientists, China's aggressive policy of planting trees is likely playing a significant role in tempering its climate impacts – with the trees pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
A report published in the Nature journal (published 28 October) shows that the role of two carbon sink areas had previously under-appreciated - and hones in on how much CO2 China’s extra trees could be taking up as they grow.
Simply put, a carbon sink is any natural reservoir that absorbs and stores more carbon than it releases - in return, lowering the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Carbon sources include the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil for energy and transport, and agriculture, while natural carbon sinks include oceans, forests, grasslands, and soil.
Located on China's southwestern Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi provinces and northeastern Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, these two areas together account for a little over 35 percent of China's entire land carbon sink. This is according to the international team which conducted the research based on ground and satellite observations.
"Bold scientific statements must be supported by massive amounts of evidence and this is what we have done in this study," said Professor Paul Palmer, a co-author from Edinburgh University. "We have collected together a range of ground-based and satellite data-driven evidence to form a consistent and robust narrative about the Chinese carbon cycle.”
“We applaud China in its efforts thus far to reduce their carbon footprint,” said David Barritt of Network for Animals (NFA).
“China has shown its commitment to the cause by planting billions of trees over the past few decades, but much still needs to be done and deep cuts made in the use of fossil fuels.”
As it stands, forest coverage in China has officially increased since 1978, from 12 percent to almost 22 percent, with NASA satellite images confirming the country is “a world leader for afforestation” - the process of introducing trees and tree seedlings to an area that has previously not been forested.