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China on track to combat climate change
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On the Loess Plateau in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, forests and grass planted in the past decade have turned the bare sandy terrain green -- the result of the national campaign to return cropland to forest and grass, begun in late 1990s.

The campaign prohibits all commercial logging in natural forests along the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, China's two longest waterways, and reduces felling in northeast China and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The project has protected forests on 104 million hectares, and added 15.27 million hectares of new forests.

The reforestation program was initially aimed at stopping desertification and the destruction of China's waterways, but it evolved into a way of giving public expression to the challenges of climate change and also forest and ecosystem degradation.

The Chinese government has planted 2.6 billion trees, bringing the total on the planet to 7.3 billion trees planted in 167 countries worldwide, according to a report by United Nations (UN) Environment Program, which was released on Sept. 21.

Addressing the United Nations climate change summit on Sept. 22, Chinese President Hu Jintao unveiled the goverment's climate targets and plans, including a promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by "a notable margin" by 2020 from the 2005 level.

Yu Jie, an official in charge of Climate Group's Policy and Research, said it was the first time a Chinese leader had revealed the country's target at an international conference, and it could be interpreted as a commitment even though no actual figure was disclosed.

Hu said China would strive to develop renewable energy and nuclear energy, and increase the proportion of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to about 15 percent by 2020, which was at about 9 percent at the end of 2008. He also said China would increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares by 2020 to absorb carbon.

China published its National Climate Change Program in June 2007, pledging to reduce energy consumption per unit GDP, and to increase the proportion of renewable energy in total energy consumption to 10 percent by 2010 compared with 7.5 percent in 2005. This would cut 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and save 620 million tonnes of standard coal.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislature, approved on Aug. 27 a resolution on "actively tackling climate change" including specific measures on greenhouse gas emission controls, improvement of adaptability to climate changes, support of scientific research and the development of a low-carbon economy. The resolution also required climate change coping capacity be considered an element of long-term sustainable growth.

Since the 1990s, China has adopted a series of new laws concerning climate change issues, including the Renewable Energy Law, Energy Conservation Law, Cleaner Production Promotion Law, and Circular Economy Promotion Law.

China projected in 2005 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 20 percent during its 11th five-year-plan. By the end of 2008 carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP had decreased by 10 percent, with sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand down respectively by 9 percent and 6.6 percent.

Yu said that the goal of 20 percent emission decrease could "both ensure China's energy security and help combat the challenge of climate change."

Green investment such as public transportation and energy-saving and emission-reduction projects accounted for 30 percent of the government's 4-trillion-yuan (586 billion U.S. dollars) economic stimulus plan.

The State Council said in its 2009 energy-saving and emission-reducing plan that the country would save 75 million tonnes of standard coal in the year by 10 major projects and support the establishment of new energy vehicle pilot units in 13 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing.

The government has accelerated the construction of hydropower, nuclear, solar and wind power capacities. According to the country's long and mid-term development plan of nuclear power plants, nuclear power installed capacity will reach 40 million kilowatts by 2020 and will generate 260 billion to 280 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year, accounting for 4 percent to 6 percent of the country's total.

Yu also said the country needed to consider the revenue to cost ratio when making fiscal policies in promoting the green economy. In addition, there remained challenges in technologies and administrative systems in developing green economy.

(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2009)

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