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China's Key Role in Forest Protection
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China is playing its part in the conservation of the world's forests through the recycling of wastepaper, officials said Tuesday in Beijing.

"China imports tons of wastepaper each year to be used for paper-making and paperboard products," Zhu Lieke, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, said.

The country also produces many packaging materials to be used at home and abroad.

In this way, China has made "a supreme" contribution to global timber conservation, Zhu said at a news conference.

Zhu appealed to the media to pay equal attention to China's wastepaper processing, as it does to the country's timber imports.

A recent report by Forest Trends, a leading international forestry organization, said that from an environmental perspective, China's increasing demand for wastepaper has prevented an extra 65 million tons of wastepaper from heading to landfills in the United States, Japan and Europe in the past four years.

Imports of wastepaper had saved an estimated 54.3 million metric tons of green trees from being harvested in 2006, according to Brian Stafford, the lead author of the report, and an expert on the pulp and paper industry.

The report also said wastepaper, domestic and imported, is estimated to constitute 62.6 percent of China's total fiber supply for paper and paperboards.

In response to media claims that timber imports had caused excessive logging in some foreign countries, Zhu said China is resolutely opposed to illegal and destructive logging.

He said the bulk of China's imports go back to foreign markets after processing.

The country imported US$6.24 billion worth of timber last year, and exported US$17.8 billion after processing.

Zhu said between 1990 and 2000, China recorded an annual 1.2 percent expansion rate or 1.8 million hectares of forest, while elsewhere in the world forests were shrinking by 0.2 percent a year.

China tops the world in forestation with 54 million hectares, Jia Zhibang, head of the State Forestry Administration, said at the same press conference.

As trees help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the expanded forest area means China's is playing a big role in mitigating global climate change, Jia said.

China's forests currently absorb at least 500 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, or about 8 percent of the emissions from the country's use of fossil fuels, according to administration sources.

(China Daily July 18, 2007)

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