Green finance turns air into money

Zhejiang bamboo groves create clean atmosphere, boost tourism and promote common prosperity

What amazes farmer Ying Zhongdong from eastern China’s Zhejiang province the most these days is some sort of miracle that turns local air into money. The fresh air of the bamboo forest near his home village not only attracts tourists from all over the country, but also helps boost the local economy.

“I didn’t expect the fresh air produced by bamboo forests to bring us so much money,” Ying said with a broad smile. As head of Dali Village in Anji County, Huzhou City, Ying recently received nearly 300,000 yuan ($47,100) on behalf of the village.

Income was not generated by cutting the bamboo or products made from the plants. Instead, it comes from one of bamboo’s unique properties: absorbing carbon.

The area of ​​more than 5,000 mu (334 hectares) of bamboo in Dali is only a fraction of the 870,000 mu of moso bamboo groves in the county, which is known as one of the top 10 bamboo hometowns in the country “.

The carbon storage capacity of these bamboo groves is estimated to be as high as 1.34 million metric tons, and with effective management they can sequester 340,000 tons of carbon per year.

Many researches show that bamboo is a leading plant to help reduce greenhouse gases because it quickly captures large amounts of carbon and stores it as a powerful carbon sink. As a very fast-growing plant that can thrive in degraded soils, bamboo is often seen as an ideal choice in the fight against climate change.

First observation tower

As early as 2010, Anji partnered with Zhejiang A&F University, which has a strong agricultural and forestry science research team, and built the world’s first moso bamboo carbon flux observation tower to track and calculate the carbon sequestration capacity of local bamboo stands. .

Nowadays, residents can both enjoy the environmental value and reap the economic benefits, thanks to a program called “Liangshan Bank”, an initiative which, unlike traditional banks, seeks to integrate fragmented ecological resources and transform into assets with monetary value by harnessing green finance – financial activities and investments that help ensure sustainable development.

Liangshan Bank, literally “the bank of the Two Mountains”, takes its name from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s idea that “clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”, which he put forward during his a visit to Anji in 2005 when he was the provincial Party secretary.

In June 2020, Anji piloted the first branch of Liangshan Bank in Zhejiang Province. Last year, the bank attracted investments of about 3 billion yuan for 22 projects, boosting village incomes in the county by more than 20 million yuan and providing jobs for 2,160 villagers. Currently, many places in Zhejiang and all over China have followed suit and set up their own Liangshan Bank branches.

Indeed, with the support of Liangshan Bank, a carbon trading platform was established in Anji in December, the first such platform at the county level in China. Dali is one of the first five entities to benefit from the platform.

Ecological innovation

“Our goal is to build a circular carbon trading market to promote the bamboo industry’s green innovation and realize the development value of high-quality green products,” said Chen Wei, chairman of Anji Construction. Investment Group, which manages Anji’s Liangshan Bank.

During the process, a series of innovative green finance tools were used.

For example, villages can borrow against a specially allocated low-interest loan to develop bamboo groves and grow carbon sinks, before selling them to the carbon trading platform, which, relying on on financing from Liangshan Bank, exchange them with companies that need carbon offsets. Companies that purchase carbon offsets receive special loan discounts for these purposes, creating a self-reinforcing loop.

Green insurance products are also provided to address risks such as price fluctuations and natural disasters that may decrease the value or cause damage to bamboo groves.

“Ultimately what we hope to achieve is finding a path to common prosperity,” Chen said.

“Common prosperity” has gained much prominence since 2021, as China is determined to further improve the quality of life for more people, and Zhejiang has been designated as a demonstration area for common prosperity. .

“The essence of common prosperity is to make the economic ‘pie’ bigger and better, and to distribute it more evenly,” said a finance scholar from Zhejiang University in an exclusive interview with China Daily, who preferred not to be named. “Introducing Liangshan Bank is definitely an innovative and important step in the right direction.”

Today, Anji’s momentum towards high-quality development and common prosperity through the Liangshan Bank initiative is receiving further impetus through a series of financial measures recently unveiled in a directive.

The guideline, jointly issued by the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province in March, sets out dozens of measures to ensure adequate financial policy support for the pursuit of Zhejiang’s common prosperity.

The directive aims to provide more financial resources on the supply side, said the researcher from Zhejiang University. “The goal is to establish a financial system and mechanism capable of allocating financial resources more efficiently and equitably.”

“The directive is a major innovation,” said Chen Jia, a researcher at the International Monetary Institute at Renmin University of China. Finance scholars have long advocated leveraging financial means to achieve common prosperity, and its implementation in China will pave the way for other countries to pursue common prosperity in the same way.

Over the past decade, much research has been conducted on issues such as the income disparity caused by financial inequality in the West, and topics such as how to achieve financial inclusion, improve the means livelihoods and narrowing income gaps are now high on the public agenda, Chen said.

Among the myriad messages conveyed by the guideline, a key goal is to channel financial resources towards social good causes, and some measures taken “to make Zhejiang a model of green finance” and “strengthen financial support for the achievement of carbon neutrality and peak carbon”.

In line with the 2015 Paris climate conference, China committed in 2020 to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, commonly referred to as “dual carbon goals”. “.

“With the ‘fresh air’ money produced by bamboo, we will invest more in the mechanized development of bamboo growth, which will help villagers continue to increase their income,” said Ying, director of Dalí. And with rising incomes, villages like Dali can grow more green resources like bamboo, helping to further reduce carbon emissions and move towards achieving “dual carbon goals.”

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