What steps to take to reform the Chinese state forest sector?
Forests have a unique potential to contribute to sustainable economic development and a reduction of China's massive carbon emissions. Forest Tenure Reform in China’s collective forests is a process of historical importance with widespread and long-lasting impacts. Currently, the question of what steps to take to reform the Chinese state forest sector is hotly debated.
Professor Jintao Xu (third from left and picture below), Research fellow and Director of EfD China, and Haipeng Zhang (second from left), EfD research fellow, in Sichuan with local forestry administration.
“Our contribution will be to provide a comprehensive analysis of different views, and suggest how these can be consolidated into an ultimate future path for state forests,” says Professor Jintao Xu, Director of the Environmental Economics Program in China (EEPC), the Chinese node of EfD.
Professor Jintao Xu, Director of the Environmental Economics Program in China (EEPC), the Chinese node of EfD, is one of China´s most prominent experts in forestry economics. He has been conducting research in forestry economics for about 25 years. For the last ten years he has pointed to forests as a major asset for sustainable development in China.
“Many climate change experts basically ignored this sector for long. We have contributed to getting the ideas out, together with foresters and colleagues. And suddenly it happens – national leaders promote the forest sector at world summits,” says Xu.
EEPC policy recommendations influential
In recent years most of the research work by EfD in China has focused on forest policy and on reformation of the state forest sector and the collective tenure system. The purpose of the reform is to establish individual household management and improve farmers´ livelihood. Lack of appropriate mechanisms and incentives in the state forest sector, and lack of secure forest tenure for farmers in the collective forest sector, underpin severe poverty in forested areas and unsatisfactory performance of forest resource conservation. Research done by the EEPC has provided academia and government agencies with comprehensive information about the baseline situation in these two major forest sectors. Their policy recommendations have also been highly influential.
The ongoing State Forestry Reform Projectfocuses on two important issues:
1) how to transform state forest enterprises to improve their financial performance and their performance with respect to forest conservation, and
2) how to modify the relationship between state forest authorities, provincial governments and state forest enterprises. The findings of Xu and his research colleagues Xumei Jiang and Haipeng Zhang, from forestry studies in northeast China, are to a large extent contrary to the view of the State Forest Administration.
“We need to speed up the reformation of the central government forest policy. Our report will inform the central government about what is happening at the local level, affect their thinking, and make them better prepared for local innovations. My anticipation is that local initiatives will be recognized by the central government in 1-2 years,” says Professor Jintao Xu.
Xu and his EfD research team have also analyzed a potential Chinese forest carbon market, given different scenarios, namely a cap on emissions by 2012, 2030 or 2050. They provided recommendations on the policy needs to effectively develop the market. This work was commissioned by the Forest Carbon Management Office, a proactive department within the State Forest Administration (SFA) that Xu has been working with since its founding.
In late May 2012 EEPC/EfD China, State Forestry Administration and the World Bank will arrange the Third international conference on the State Forest Reform.
By Karin Backteman