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Climate Change
Conservation Carbon: Reforestation in the Mountains of Southwest China

Twice the size of California, the Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot stretches over 161,500 miles from Southeastern Tibet through Western Sichuan, and extending into Central and Northern Yunnan. The hotspot is characterized by extremely complex topography, ranging from less than 2,000 meters in some valley floors to 7,558 meters at the summit of Gongga Shan. This region - a stunning panorama of forests, meadows, and mountains ranging from subtropical to alpine climates - is home to 16 different indigenous ethnic groups.

The Mountains of Southwest China is one of the world’s most botanically rich temperate landscapes, with more than 12,000 species of higher plants, 30 percent of them found nowhere else. Wildlife includes close to 700 bird species and more than 300 mammal varieties. Threatened animals include the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), snow leopard (Uncia uncia), and China’s only remaining population of Bengal tiger (Pantheraa tigris). Covering about 9 percent of China’s landmass, almost half of the nation’s bird and mammal species occur in the hotspot.

The Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot is heavily impacted by human activity as high population growth rates among the inhabitants of the region and immigration from other parts of China have exacerbated the pressures on the natural habitat.

Unchecked deforestation led to devastating flooding from the Yangtze River in 1998. Following those tumultuous events, the government issued a logging ban and launched a program to restore the region’s degraded forests to prevent future flooding and land erosion. Most of the government led efforts to date have focused on developing forests that are often monoculture plantations of non-native trees which do not provide the multitude of ecological services of the natural forests they replace.

In 2005, Conservation International teamed with China's State Forestry Administration, The Nature Conservancy, and others to launch the Forest Restoration for Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Initiative (FCCB) to demonstrate how reforesting degraded lands with native species can help reduce climate change, protect biodiversity, and provide economic opportunities for local communities.

Through the initiative, we are forging successful partnerships in China with other civil society partners, the private sector and government to develop demonstration reforestation projects in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. In addition to those areas inside the Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot, CI-China’s on-the-ground activities and technical expertise are expected to leverage state-level reforestation policies and activities for multiple benefits – climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and social and economic development – on over 3 million hectares of land.

These land-based carbon offset projects are being designed using the standards set forth by the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance. To earn approval under the CCB Standards, projects must satisfy 15 required criteria to demonstrate compelling net benefits for fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity, and improving socio-economic conditions for local communities.

In addition, projects sites will be submitted for approval to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol. Approval under CDM guidelines is an important step allowing carbon offsets generated to be classified as Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs). Purchasing CERs helps industrialized countries meet their greenhouse gas reduction commitments, while also providing sustainable funding to emission reduction projects in developing countries.

Value for Biodiversity
Healthy, intact forests store carbon taken from the atmosphere and thus play a unique role in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. Global deforestation accounts for nearly 25 percent of the annual emission of greenhouse gases. Wide-scale deforestation is fueling climate change and biodiversity loss, and is expected to greatly accelerate biodiversity loss and species extinctions. Land-used based carbon offset projects that support both forest protection and reforestation are designed to implement actions that simultaneously address global warming and species extinctions. Through the FCCB Initiative, reforestation efforts at the demonstration sites will support habitat restoration within many sites critical for the continued viability of endangered species. These include the Wang Lang Nature Reserve, a major habitat for the Giant Panda in Sichuan and the Gao Li Gong Nature Reserve located near the border between China and Burma.

Value for the Communities
The Mountains of Southwest China Biodiversity Hotspot and the adjacent Tibetan Plateau form the major rivers in Asia, providing more than 45 percent of the world’s population with fresh water. The fate of this “water tower” and the area’s biological is threatened by damage related to loss of natural vegetation and wetlands.

The FCCB Initiative is working with the local government to restore the watershed, and help ensure a clean water supply for the Jizi reservoir. This reservoir, situated within Lashihai National Wetland Reserve, processes 11 million cubic meters of water for the city of Lijiang, a popular tourist destination. Conversion of the farmland back to native forest also boosts the carbon sequestration capacity of the land, which could ultimately result in generating more income than maintaining the area as farmland.

CI-China will also continue to develop incentives and management mechanisms for local stakeholders to reduce pressure on the forest reserve and buffer areas and offer economic alternatives for long-term protection of restored forests.

CI, making use of the expertise and authority of multiple agencies, conservation NGOs and community development organizations, will utilize a Conservation Incentive Agreement (CIA) methodology, a cost-effective, performance-based market solution to compensate local stakeholders for protecting and restoring natural habitats, in the demonstration areas.

CI-China is also developing a Payment of Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme, an innovative approach for sustainable financing for conservation, to engage local communities on natural resource management while providing an economic alternative to resource exploitation.

Value for Business
With growing public concern for global warming, many leadership companies are taking a proactive stance regarding their emissions. This creates an opportunity for investors in the FCCB Initiative to leverage their presence in this expanding economic region while making solid contributions to the local communities, the biodiversity of the region, and the fight against the negative impacts of climate change. While under current Kyoto rules, this type of emissions avoidance is not yet creditable, companies currently participating in these voluntary markets will help shape the future regulation to encompass these multiple benefit approaches. Additionally, companies are able to communicate positive action to address climate change with concerned consumers, shareholders, and employees through clear, tangible commitments that reduce their greenhouse gas impacts in a cost efficient manner.

United Technologies Supports FCCB Demonstration Site. In September, 2006, United Technologies Corp. (UTC) provided a 2-year, $200,000 grant to support a pilot reforestation effort that will replant and improve natural regeneration of native tree species on 102 hectares in the Teng Chong County, Yunnan Province around the Gao Li Gong Nature Reserve. When completed, this effort could have the potential to absorb about 16,600 tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years.

World Bank Supports FCCB Initiative: The World Bank awarded a grant to undertake a feasibility study for expanding the FCCB initiative to include payments for other ecosystem services (PES), including stabilizing water supplies through forest restoration activities.

Pilot Project Launched. In July 2006, a tree planting ceremony was held at the Gao Li Gong Nature Reserve in Yunnan to celebrate the implementation of the first FCCB demonstration project. This event was attended by the Managing Director for 3M China, government officials from the national and local forestry agencies, and journalists from across the country. This 300-hectare pilot project uses native species to restore biodiversity habitat. Local communities will benefit directly from the sale of carbon credits and the use of the various forest products generated.

3M Provides Initial Funding. In October 2004, the 3M Foundation committed $3 million over three years to support Conservation International’s strategy for natural forest restoration in China. This funding supported the creation of the Forest Restoration for Climate, Communities, and Biodiversity Initiative which was officially launched in 2005 with China’s State Forestry Administration, The Nature Conservancy, and a number of local partners.


© CI
Planting seedlings at the tree nursery in Gao Li Gong.

The Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot


• Develop demonstration reforestation projects on 3,000 hectares of land, which has the potential to impact an estimated 1,800 square kilometers (180,000 hectares) in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
• Leverage state-level reforestation policies and activities for multiple benefits – climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and social and economic development – on over 30,000 square kilometers (3 million hectares) of land.
• Support local communities through market-based policies, in particular payment for ecological and environmental services, to achieve mutual benefits for the environment and human livelihoods.

United Technologies


Calculate & Offset Your Carbon Footprint Using CI’s Carbon Calculator


Conservation Carbon Projects Overview Fact Sheet (pdf, 383kb)


• In Depth: The Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot

 Photo credits for banner image: (Clouds) © CI