New way to fulfill tree-planting obligations in China

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Chinese citizens will be able to contribute to the country's tree-planting efforts through the use of an "Ant Forest" feature on Alipay, one of the country's most popular online payment platforms, reports Xinhua News Agency.

Ant Financial and the SEE have been providing subsidies for people in Alxa to plant saxaul trees in the desert. [Photo: courtesy of Ant Financial Services Group]

Every Chinese citizen has the legal obligation to plant three trees each year, according to a regulation issued by the State Council in 1982. Starting in December, activities logged through the Alipay platform that are considered as low-carbon create points that are logged against the user's account. These activities include paying for utilities and buying tickets online, and taking public transport. 

The points accrued in Art Forest nurture virtual trees, until the points reach a threshold where Ant Financial supports the planting of real trees in a desert. Ant Forest users can then apply online for an "Obligation Fulfillment Certificate for Voluntarily Tree Planting by National Citizens" after they've grown three virtual trees on Alipay. 

This initiative is part of a strategic cooperation agreement between Hangzhou-based Ant Financial Services Group, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, and China Green Foundation that was signed on Tuesday. 

Ant Forest first went online in August 2016, and had around 350 million users as of May 2018. Ant Financial said the scheme has led to 55 million trees being planted, which equates to a three million ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Through massive reforestation efforts, authorities in China plan to improve the country's forest coverage to about 23 percent by 2020, and to reach the world's average forestation level by 2050. 

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