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Alipay is a Chinese online payment platform that developed Alipay Ant Forest, a gamified tree-planting initiative, in 2016. Alipay Ant Forest allows users to collect 'green energy points' from specific activities; once a user has grown a virtual tree from these points, Alipay will match it by planting a real tree via partner NGOs .

Alipay Ant Forest Tree-Planting

Alipay Ant Forest

An infographic for Alipay Ant Forest. Image source: Ant Group. Retrieved 26 April 2023, from https://medium.com/alipay-and-the-world/alipay-gallery-ant-forest-tree-planting-spring-2019-dc4e0578cc7c

Alipay Ant Forest rewards users for various 'low carbon behaviours' including cycling, walking, making online payments, and using eco-cups. As of 2019, when Alipay Ant Forest won a UN Global Climate Action Award, the app had over 500 million registered users and had planted over 100 million trees in areas of Northwest China facing desertification. In addition to planting trees, partner NGOs have also committed to conserving particular areas with the funding from the app. Alipay Ant Forest is an example of the 'Internet + Ecology' strategy in China. The app draws on social media and game logics to allow users to share green energy points or compete with their friends. Alipay Ant Forest also includes satellite imagery and field monitor data that users can access.

Scholarship on Alipay Ant Forest has emphasised its positive impacts, focusing on how the platform promotes green behaviours and contributes to restoration and carbon sequestration efforts. However, there has been less engagement with questions around how sustainable the tree planting (and support needed for ongoing maintenance) will be in the longer term.

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