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State lands to be transformed into carbon sinks: Finance ministry

12/02/2023 03:59 PM
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Photo couresy of the Ministry of Finance
Photo couresy of the Ministry of Finance

Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) The Taiwan government, in collaboration with a public university, is aiming to achieve the development of some 92 hectares of state lands in the eastern part of the country as carbon sinks, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said earlier this week.

The pilot project, which is part of the government's goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, will be launched next year with the solicitation of bids for the establishment of carbon sinks in Yilan and Taitung counties, the MOF said.

A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it releases. The world's largest natural carbon sinks are the ocean, forests and soil, while artificial ones are developed by humans.

The finance ministry's National Property Administration (NPA), which manages most of Taiwan's state lands, said earlier this week that it will be working with National Chung Hsin University (NCHU) in central Taiwan to develop 92 hectares of underused state lands into carbon sinks, following years of research by the university in that field.

Under the pilot project, tenders will be put out for bids to grow forests on 20 hectares of state lands in Yilan County's Sanshing Township and 72 hectares in Taitung County's Chishang Township, an NPA official said.

The 20 hectares in Yilan was formerly a sand mining site, while the designated land in Taitung was once a rail yard, the official said, adding that neither of the two sites is suitable for agriculture due to the quality of the soil.

The forest carbon sinks from which carbon credits are to be gained have to be artificially created rather than naturally grown, according to NCHU Professor Liu Wan-yu (柳婉郁).

Furthermore, the cultivated forests cannot be located in areas where natural forests previously existed, which means natural forests cannot be cut down to grow new ones, if carbon credits are to be earned, she added.

The lands allocated by the NPA for use as carbon sinks comply with the international regulations for earning carbon credits, Liu said.

When the pilot project is launched, it will be left up the successful bidders to decide what kinds of trees should be planted, she said, adding that she would recommend those have a high capacity to absorb carbon and pollutants.

The successful bidders will rent the lands from the NPA and will retain 90 percent of the carbon credits, while the other 10 percent will go the government, according to the NPA.

NCHU will help to oversee the project, monitor the forests' absorption of carbon, and involve its students in the work so that it can become a learning ground for them, Liu said.

She said enterprises have started to see forests as a means of achieving their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals and an opportunity to earn carbon credits.

In earlier years, it would have been unthinkable for enterprises to bid to plant forests, as "no one would have wanted a piece of land just to grow trees," Liu said, adding that the tenders for the carbon sink project will be put out next year after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Building carbon sinks is one of the 12 key components of Taiwan's carbon reduction plan, called Pathway to Net-Zero Emissions in 2050, which was put forth by the National Development Council last year.

(By Chang Ai and Alison Hsiao)


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