BEIJING, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- China's efforts in afforestation and nature conservation have substantially increased carbon storage, mitigating climate change in the first two decades of this century, according to an international research team.
From 2000 to 2020, the country's contribution to climate mitigation via Natural Climate Solutions (NCSs) amounted to 600 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year, offsetting 8 percent of the mean annual fossil CO2 emissions in the same period, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The NCSs include carbon reduction strategies such as planting trees, and restoring grasslands, wetlands and farmland.
For the first time, scientists from China, France, the United States and the United Kingdom have estimated China's historical mitigation capacity of its conservation projects in the 2000-2020 period.
The results echoed a 2019 finding published in Nature Sustainability showing that at least 25 percent of the foliage expansion since the early 2000s globally came in China, based on data from NASA satellites.
China's contribution to the global greening trend comes significantly from its forest conservation and expansion initiatives, accounting for about 42 percent of the contribution to greening.
About 64 million hectares of trees have been planted in China over the past decade. The country's forest coverage has now reached 23.04 percent, up 2.68 percentage points from 2012.
In the recent study, the researchers also predicted the potential future during 2020-2030 and 2020-2060 by conservation, restoration and improvement of the management of forests, croplands, grasslands and wetlands.
China's achievable mitigation potential in the 2020s is estimated to be as high as 600 million tonnes, a level similar to that in the United States and much higher than in Canada, according to the study.
It added that from 2020 to 2060, NCSs in China might help seal up 1 billion tonnes more CO2 equivalents.
Some initial measures adopted by China to prevent soil erosions and increase grain yields turned out to be beneficial for climate mitigation, said Lyu Nan, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who is the paper's first author.
Irrigation management in rice paddies has reduced methane emissions and the economizing of nitrogen fertilizer has cut nitrous oxide emissions, Lyu added. Both methane and nitrous oxide are important greenhouse gases.
"The potentials of carbon reduction by technology are narrowing as its cost continues to rise," said Fu Bojie, the paper's corresponding author from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"However, NCSs can play an increasingly significant role in achieving the goal of carbon neutrality," Fu added.
China has announced that it will strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. ■