Thursday, September 13, 2007

China stops planting trees to preserve farmland

Climate Ark, via Agence France-Presse: China has suspended a plan to plant millions of trees across the country amid worries that they would have taken up increasingly scarce farmland, state media reported on Wednesday. China had planned to reforest 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of farmland as part of a five-year project due to end in 2010, the China Daily newspaper said.

But the the project has been halted to maintain the minimum 120 million hectares of farmland deemed necessary to feed the country's people, the paper said, citing an order from the State Council, China's cabinet. The suspension will affect 1.07 million hectares, with the other land already planted with trees, it said.

The move comes amid official concern over the increasing use of land to grow corn and other grains for use as biofuels rather than food. It also follows Tuesday's announcement that August saw the highest inflation rate in nearly 11 years, fuelled in large part by skyrocketing food prices.

Reforestation and urbanisation has reduced China's arable land to 122.07 million hectares, the paper said, just above the government-set "red line." However, it quoted officials from the State Forestry Administration as calling the suspension a "pause." "We will continue to implement the project in the coming years," said Liu Qing, an official with the forestation project.

It said more than 24 million hectares of farmland have been reforested since 2000. China's government, which has resisted international calls for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, has identified the replanting of carbon-absorbing forests as a major way it which it can help to mitigate the affects of climate change.

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