How China is building a shared future for all lives on Earth
By Meng Yaping and Hu Yiwei
Biodiversity — the variety of plants, animals and all living things on Earth — is being degraded by human activity. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has turned the whole world upside down, has further spotlighted the urgency to review the relationship between people and nature.
An opportunity to accelerate global action is coming as the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity will start on Wednesday under the theme of "urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development."
The summit will highlight the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity, and thereby give momentum to the development and eventual adoption of an effective post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
China, as one of the mega-biodiversity countries in the world and also one of the countries with the most threatened biodiversity, has put biodiversity conservation high on its agenda.
Why is it important to protect biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the foundation of human life and lifeblood of the shared future of all lives on Earth. It seems far away from where people live in the city, but the reality is that biodiversity creates the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.
However, global biodiversity is decreasing rapidly and changing dramatically due to human activity. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there has been a 60 percent decline in mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations over the past 40 years.
A study published in April 2019 in the journal Biological Conservation suggested that 40 percent of insects are threatened with extinction in the coming decades from habitat loss, intensive agriculture, pesticide use and climate change.
In the Asia-Pacific region where fisheries are a key source of food, there may be no exploitable fish populations left by 2048 if current fishing practices continue.
Slow progress has been made in global biodiversity conservation. A UN evaluation has found that 77 percent of verious countries' national biodiversity goals were lower than those set at Japan's Aichi in 2010. Two thirds of nations have said their progress is too slow to meet the 2020 goals.
China is turning green
As the largest developing country and the second-largest economy in the world, China is working hard to coordinate economic growth with green development.
The country is trying to drop its old development approach that pollution happened before prevention and clean-up measures were taken, and is now pursuing an "ecological civilization" that was first proposed by Xi Jinping in 2012.
Xi has always attached great importance to environmental protection and green development.
Fifteen years ago, as secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), he proposed a concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets," which later became a famous model for green development nationwide.
Since becoming general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and president of China in 2013, Xi has repeatedly stressed the importance of ecological protection, including during his inspection tours across the country.
Policies and laws
With the guiding principle of Xi's thoughts on ecological civilization, China established the National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation in 2011, implemented the China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030) and built a monitoring network, making significant progress in advancing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to be achieved by 2020.
Biodiversity conservation has accelerated in the past few years in China as the concept has been incorporated into such economic and social strategies as the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).
In June this year, China unveiled a 15-year comprehensive plan for ecosystem management entitled the Master Plan for the Major Projects for the Protection and Restoration of National Key Ecosystems (2021-2035).
China has also provided solid legal safeguards for biodiversity conservation and introduced legislation to ban the consumption of wild animals in order to protect public health.
On February 24, 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress voted to adopt the Decision to Comprehensively Prohibit the Illegal Trade of Wild Animals, Eliminate the Bad Habits of Wild Animal Consumption and Protect the Health and Safety of the People.
The committee also explicitly stated the need to amend the Law on Wild Animal Protection and related regulations and to accelerate the legislation on biosafety.
An array of major ecological protection projects in such areas as wetlands, forests, rivers and desertification have been conducted and tremendous strides have been made.
China has carried out a series of key programs including the protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands, the conversion of farmland to forest and grassland, the conversion of farmland to wetland, the establishment of shelterbelts such as the "Three-North" Shelterbelt and the Yangtze River Shelterbelt, natural forest protection, the Beijing-Tianjin sandstorm source control Project and fishing prohibition in key waters of the Yangtze River Basin.
China will ban fishing in some parts of the Yangtze River Basin for 10 years starting in January 2021. There have been 332 conservation areas created along the basin, and nearly 80,000 fishing boats and 100,000 fishermen had stopped operation along the river as of July 2020.
These projects have helped enhance and restore wildlife habitats in key areas. The forest coverage has steadily increased; grassland degradation has been curbed; and wetland protection efforts have seen initial success.
Global biodiversity governance
China has actively participated in global biodiversity governance and contributed to global ecological civilization.
It was among the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, has constructively engaged in its Nagoya Protocol and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and contributed to the conclusion and entry into force of the documents.
China has also worked closely with the international community to build a green Belt and Road. China and international partners have jointly established the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) International Green Development Coalition, which serves as a platform for BRI cooperation on green development. To date some 150 Chinese and international partners from over 40 countries have joined in the coalition.
Meanwhile, preparations are well underway for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15). The COP15 theme is Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth.
China is willing to share with all parties its experience and best practices in advancing ecological civilization and biodiversity conservation and fulfill its mandate as the host country, according to China's Position Paper on the UN Summit on Biodiversity.
Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said the international community can leverage China's ecological stewardship to revitalize conservation of biodiversity.
"What we would like to see now is China really showing the way in global leadership to help other countries come to a strong and viable new agreement on protecting nature," she said.