Ecological conservation is deeply ingrained within the Chinese civilization. The Superfluous Book of Zhou, written more than 2,000 years ago, has the lines: “Do not bring axes to mountains in the spring, leaving trees to grow; do not cast fishing nets in rivers in the summer, leaving fish and crabs to grow.” It exhorts people to use natural resources in a way which conforms to the life cycle of wildlife to guarantee the sustainability of the planet.
Today China has incorporated the traditional conception of harmony between people and nature into a new development philosophy that stresses innovation, coordination, environment-friendliness, openness, and sharing, making biodiversity conservation an integral part of its socio-economic development. The modernization China is working toward is one in which humankind lives in harmony with nature.
On November 6, 2019 Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly released the Beijing Call for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change during Macron’s visit to China. In October 2021, the first part of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) was held in Kunming. On the basis of these progresses, China will continue to work with all parties concerned worldwide to open up a new chapter in protecting biodiversity.
Representatives of international businesses in China visit a biodiversity experience park in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on June 16, 2021.
China has the greatest biodiversity in the world. Guided by Xi Jinping’s thought on ecological civilization, it has diligently performed its international obligations, made significant achievements, and garnered much experience in this regard.
Biodiversity conservation is now a state strategy. China has promulgated a general plan for institutional reform in this regard, established a national committee for biodiversity conservation that is headed by a vice premier and staffed by members from 23 departments of the State Council, enacted the China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030), and launched the program “United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, China in Action” (2011-2020). What’s more, biodiversity conservation has been incorporated into national planning. For instance, in the Outline for the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035 the implementation of major projects and creation of a nationwide network for biodiversity conservation is listed as a key part of China’s endeavors to improve the quality and stability of its ecosystems.
Efforts to protect biodiversity have intensified in recent years. During the 2017-18 period, for example, investment in relevant programs added up to RMB 260 billion, six-fold the sum of relevant investments in 2008. China invented and established the ecological conservation red line system, and so far has put no less than 25 percent of its land mass under ecological conservation, which effectively protects most key species and important ecosystems in the country. From 2000 to 2017, China alone accounted for 25 percent of the net increase in the leafy coverage of the earth, making the largest contribution worldwide. Over the past decade, the size of China’s wooded lands, grasslands, wetlands, and surface of water bodies increased by 17.33 million hectares. In January of this year, a decade-long fishing ban was introduced to all natural waterways of the Yangtze River and its major tributaries. It was accompanied by programs to provide financial support and reemployment services to local fishermen.
In China, biodiversity conservation goes hand in hand with poverty reduction. By developing local bio-resources, fostering bio-industries, establishing partnerships between enterprises, rural cooperatives, and farmers, China has not only protected its biodiversity, but also promoted sustainable use of its natural resources and boosted socio-economic progress. In Wufeng Tujia Autonomous County in Hubei Province, for example, development of beekeeping businesses and plantation of honey production plants helped 3,500 households move out of poverty by each adding more than RMB 5,000 to their annual incomes. This initiative was selected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank as one of the 110 cases of best poverty reduction practices in 2019.
Public participation has increased. China’s biodiversity conservation efforts are guided by the government, and engage both businesses and the general public. In 2015 the country joined the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity (GPBB). In the same year, nine Chinese companies, together with six NGOs and associations, announced the “Forest Declaration,” a commitment to completely avoid or eliminate timber products associated with deforestation by 2030. NGOs are now playing an ever-bigger role in the formulation of biodiversity policies, release of relevant information and public interest litigation cases about biodiversity conservation. Members of the public are also active participants. In April 2020 China launched a charity initiative to donate to conservation of the Jiantang Grassland in Qinghai Province. It has so far attracted more than 100 million donations.
China staunchly upholds multilateralism, and is actively engaged in international cooperation on biodiversity conservation. It will hold extensive discussions and consultation with other countries to build consensus and pool strength for the creation of a more fair and equitable global system for biodiversity governance.
China earnestly performs its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. It was among the first to sign and ratify the convention, and played a constructive role in the formulation and adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. China has presented national reports on time as required by the convention, and made notable progress in meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted at COP10. Following the gathering last October, it will again host phase two of COP15 meeting next year, during which all participating parties will discuss post-2020 global biodiversity governance in an effort to take it to a new level.
China strives to establish bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for international cooperation and exchanges on biodiversity conservation. It has jointly launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) International Green Development Coalition and the BRI Environmental Big Data Platform which has so far received data from more than 100 countries. It implements the Green Silk Road Envoys Program to enhance green capacity building in developing countries. China has also set up bilateral mechanisms for cooperation with France, Germany, Norway, the U.K., and South Africa on biodiversity, bio-security, bio-services, and climate change. It maintains dialogue on biodiversity policies with Japan and the Republic of Korea under the environmental cooperation mechanism between the three countries. It conducts regular, in-depth exchanges on the issues of biodiversity conservation, access to germplasm resources, and benefits sharing through environmental cooperation platforms with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), other countries in the Lancang-Mekong area, and African countries.
China is committed to closer South-South cooperation. Within the South-South cooperation framework, the Chinese government provides assistance within its capabilities to biodiversity conservation efforts in other developing countries. It has carried out a series of programs and activities to help these countries improve management of their eco-environment, which have brought benefits to more than 80 countries around the world. At the regular gathering for the Lancang-Mekong Roundtable Dialogue, China holds talks with other Asian countries on such topics as management of eco-systems, construction of sustainable infrastructure, and biodiversity conservation. In partnership with ASEAN countries, it has rolled out a slew of programs including the China-ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Biodiversity and Ecological Conservation. Environmental protection is also a key aspect of its cooperation with African countries. China provides them equipment and training needed for biodiversity conservation to enhance their capacity in this area.
Eight South China Tiger cubs play at the nursery of the Nanchang Zoo under the watch care of a worker on June 17, 2021.
Planning for the Future
The fifth edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5), released last year, warns that despite progress in certain areas, the global trend of biodiversity loss is yet to be reversed, and calls for the international community to change ways to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources. At the COP15 meetings, the international community should review global efforts of biodiversity conservation carried out in the past, adopt the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, set biodiversity conservation goals for the next decade, and identify the measures needed to achieve these goals.
For this purpose, countries should use a top-level design to bring biodiversity conservation into the social mainstream. Biodiversity conservation should be given priority in government agendas, and feasible plans and policies should be made to balance conservation with socio-economic development. To mitigate the impact of land use on biodiversity, countries should take measures to protect ecological space and control changes in the functions of key segments of ecological space. The authenticity and integrity of ecosystems should be maintained and restored, and more efforts should be made to promote sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry, enhance protection of marine environment, and ensure the health of ecosystems, so that humankind can slow down and better adapt to climate change.
Countries should lose no time in creating an economic system that prioritizes environmental conservation and green development. This includes building low-carbon and circular production and consumption systems, monitoring and regulating the whole process of using wildlife resources, and building up the capacity for biodiversity conservation and oversight. Efforts should also be made to increase the public’s awareness of, and participation in, biodiversity conservation and encourage all stakeholders, including businesses, financial institutions and social groups, to engage in the work.
Countries should work together to address global ecological challenges through more international cooperation and exchanges. The issue of biodiversity conservation should be brought to high-level political and diplomatic events to enhance dialogue and cooperation in this area. More communication should be conducted and a greater consensus reached at major international environmental conferences, such as the World Conservation Congress (WCC), COP15, and UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP26, to rally political, financial, and technical support as well as human resources to combat biodiversity loss and the many problems it may cause worldwide, especially in developing countries.
Countries should also seek a broader consensus to make the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework a reality as a matter of urgency. We should uphold multilateralism, accept common but differentiated responsibilities, accommodate the concerns of developing countries about funds, technology, and capacity building, and be committed to better global governance of biodiversity. As the host of COP15, China will perform its duties in helping build a broader consensus among all parties concerned under the principle of fairness, transparency and parties-driven process. It aims to pool the strength of all parties to reach a global framework that is ambitious, balanced, and pragmatic, which will contribute to a more just and reasonable global governance system of biodiversity in which all stakeholders play their due parts. In doing so the earth will become a community of life.
CUI SHUHONG is director general of the Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
(Source: Economic Daily)