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Building a community of all life on Earth | Updated: 2021-10-13 15:52
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Aerial photo taken on Sept 23, 2021 shows the autumn scenery of Saihanba forest farm in North China's Hebei province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Editor's note: President Xi Jinping attended the leaders' summit of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) via video link on Tuesday. The COP15 held in Kunming from Monday to Friday will finalize the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and set the global biodiversity governance direction for the next decade. Following are the views of five Chinese experts on biodiversity conservation:

China a leading contributor to biodiversity conservation

The accelerated extinction of species, loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems pose a severe challenge to the world, making it necessary for governments to take effective measures to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss.

Drawing from ancient Chinese philosophy, President Xi said a good ecological environment guarantees the well-being of all the people, and clean water and green mountains are as good as gold and silver mountains. Xi's green development concept, which is in line with the three major goals mapped out by the UN convention on biodiversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, provide the guidance for biodiversity conservation, the path to turn the vision of "harmonious coexistence between man and nature" into reality, and offer Chinese wisdom and solutions to global ecological and environmental governance problems.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi as the core has been promoting ecological civilization, by drawing the red line for ecological protection, establishing a system to protect natural areas with national parks as the main units, and improve and/or restore the health of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands, providing institutional guarantees for reversing the trend of biodiversity loss.

First, people today are more aware about biodiversity conservation. As Xi's thought on ecological civilization has taken root among the people, the green development concept has become a social consensus, with more and more people becoming ecology protectors. Since 2016, the Tibet autonomous region and Qinghai province have created more than 900,000 jobs related to ecological protection, which has increased the income of farmers and herdsmen by nearly 8 billion yuan ($1.24 billion).

Second, the level of basic research in biodiversity in China has improved, which in turn has boosted biodiversity conservation and management. The Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Ecology and Environment and other departments have conducted a number of major biodiversity surveys and investigations, launched many research projects, and strengthened the network of strategic biological resources platforms and field research stations, which has helped China keep pace with the international biodiversity research level.

Third, the world's largest ecological restoration project in China has achieved remarkable results. Also, China has launched 25 pilot projects to better protect mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands and lakes, and 10 projects to integrate the projects to protect mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands and lakes.

China's preliminary red lines for national ecological protection cover key areas of biodiversity across the country, including all types of protected natural areas and most biodiversity conservation areas. And between 2000 and 2017, China accounted for 25 percent of the the global growth of areas of woods and forests, ranking first in the world.

And fourth, China has taken strict measures to better protect natural areas, wild animals and plants.

The country has also built nearly 10,000 protected natural areas of various types over 18 percent of its total land mass. By establishing a scientific and rational system of protecting natural areas, taken strict measures to protect 90 percent of the terrestrial ecosystems and 71 percent of wildlife species under key State protection, and strictly protected, even increased the numbers of, rare and endangered wildlife species.

The COP15 will finalize the global biodiversity framework for the post-2020 period, while setting the goals of global biodiversity conservation over the next 10 years. As the host country and incoming chair of COP15, China has been organizing and participating in the discussions and consultations on such a framework, striving to strike a balance among the three goals of the convention on biodiversity, and injecting vitality into the global biodiversity governance system.

Wei Fuwen, an academician at the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Endangered Species Scientific Commission

A sound legal system for biological diversity

China has been improving its legal and regulatory system for biodiversity conservation. It has formed a widely recognized conservation concept, a legal framework and a complete institutional system, providing sound legal guarantee for biodiversity conservation.

It has also enacted and revised more than 50 laws and regulations related to biodiversity conservation at multiple levels — from the central administrative to local departmental level — covering not only ecosystem protection, prevention of alien species invasion, and protection of biological genetic resources.

And now since China has formed a sound legal framework for biodiversity conservation, a systematic legal system is necessary to guarantee the overall conservation of biodiversity.

Based on the common elements of biodiversity conservation, China has also formed a series of relatively mature legal systems in specific areas, such as the administrative licensing system, risk assessment system and environmental monitoring system. As one of the most widely used systems, the administrative licensing system is aimed at preventing the risk factors that could result in the loss of biodiversity.

The country also has some specialized systems with domain characteristics. For instance, the partitioned management system for ecological protection, the environmental impact assessment system aimed at preventing the invasion of alien species, the inspection and quarantine system, the rights confirmation system for biological genetic resources protection, and the mandatory labeling system for genetically modified organisms to ensure biological safety provide strong institutional guarantee for the strict enforcement of the biodiversity conservation laws.

Considering the practical needs of biodiversity conservation, China should do more on three fronts to enable the biodiversity conservation laws to be effective.

First, it should make clear the legislative objectives for the overall protection of biodiversity. It is necessary to not only establish the relationship between ecological and environmental protection and rational resource utilization, but also promote coordinated biodiversity conservation in certain major areas, so as to comprehensively cover genetic resources, biological species and ecosystems.

Second, it should formulate a basic, policy-based and coordinated biodiversity conservation law. Since biodiversity conservation is an important social issue, legislation should be holistic and targeted.

And third, the biodiversity conservation laws should not only promote the balanced development of the existing systems, but also encourage public-private participation to promote cooperative governance.

Qin Tianbao, a researcher at the Wuhan University

Modernizing biodiversity conservation governance

The COP15 will promote the building of a "community of life on Earth" in which humans and nature can live in harmony.

In 2015, the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved the Implementation Plan for Major Biodiversity Conservation Projects (2015-20), defining the key tasks for biodiversity conservation in the coming years.

Under the overall leadership of the National Commission for Biodiversity Conservation, several departments have made remarkable achievements in their respective fields. For example, a national biodiversity observation network covering 749 sample areas and 11,887 lines (points) has been established to promote biodiversity conservation.

Also, about 34,450 species of higher plants, 4,357 species of vertebrates and 9,302 species of macro-fungi in nearly 180 counties have been evaluated, necessitating the revision of the Red List of Biodiversity in China.

More than 20 relevant technical guidelines and regulations have been issued, and over 20 major decision-making advisory reports have been prepared, supporting the formulation and revision of laws and regulations such as the Biosecurity Law and the Wildlife Protection Law.

Besides, a species distribution database covering 2,376 county-level administrative units and more than 34,000 kilometers of observation lines have been established, promoting the use of artificial intelligence, big data and other advanced technologies in biodiversity surveys and observations.

And national reports on the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocols have highlighted the need for negotiations and international consultations on the outcomes of the COP15.

Yet the trend of biodiversity loss has not been reversed in China, the overall situation of biodiversity conservation is not optimistic, and some key issues still need to be resolved. Plus, no systematic surveys on a large number of non-protected but threatened species and aquatic organisms have not been conducted, and there is still a lack of data on their numbers, distribution and threat levels.

Moreover, despite the establishment of a preliminary national biodiversity observation network, the coverage of sample areas, including some important bio-geographical areas, is limited and the application of advanced technologies insufficient.

Also, there is still a huge gap in the protection of amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals and insects, and many narrowly distributed and small numbers of critically endangered species lack protection and are at the risk of extinction.

China has built a number of wildlife rescue centers around the country, but their number and scale are small, and the rescue level is uneven, with the development and use of biological resources being at a relatively low level. And the biological industry, biological economy and ecological tourism are yet to fully develop.

So China needs to continue to plan and implement major projects for biodiversity conservation, and strictly protect the natural ecological systems and rich biodiversity areas, and promote the harmonious development of humans and nature.

Through the implementation of major biodiversity conservation projects, China can modernize the governance system and enhance the governance capacity in the field of biodiversity conservation, and present to the international community Chinese solutions to biodiversity conservation problems.

Liu Yan, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science, Ministry of Ecology and Environment

Innovative ecological preservation model

Biodiversity loss is a common ecological problem facing the international community, and on-site conservation and creating and strengthening more protected areas are effective ways of reversing the trend of biodiversity loss.

To conserve biodiversity and protect natural landscapes, China has established nearly 10,000 natural reserves of various types at various levels, accounting for about 18 percent of its land area. But some important ecological areas have not been included in the list of protected areas.

Given these facts, China has proposed to delimit and strictly observe the red lines for ecological protection, providing a new model for effective biodiversity conservation and territorial and spatial protection.

The red lines for ecological protection refer to areas that are part of the nationwide ecological space that have special ecological functions and should be strictly protected. They cover areas with important ecological functions such as biodiversity conservation, sensitive and vulnerable ecological environments such as deserts, and different types of natural protected areas.

China first proposed the concept of ecological red lines in 2011 and incorporated it into the Environmental Protection Law and the National Security Law in 2015. And in 2017, it issued a guideline document on demarcating and strictly observing the red lines for ecological protection and technical specifications for demarcating the red lines for ecological protection.

Compared with the existing system of protected natural areas in the world, China's ecological red-line system is comprehensive in terms of providing protection, complete in spatial pattern and strict when it comes to management.

The selection of ecological red line areas is based on scientific data and methods, and appropriate technical frameworks, and models are selected for quantitative assessment and spatial mapping of ecosystem functions, biodiversity and ecosystem vulnerability.

The red lines for ecological protection cover key species and habitats. They are no longer limited to the protection of areas such as national parks and nature reserves. Instead, they cover important ecosystems, landscapes and regions, thus providing a more effective model for biodiversity conservation. The ecological protection red lines have the support of State laws and regulations, which minimize the interference of humans in biodiversity hotspots.

The red line areas are also managed in accordance with the requirements of demarcated no-development and no-construction areas, because such activities could damage the ecological functions and characteristic features of such areas.

The delineation of the red lines for ecological conservation, which are related to biodiversity conservation, is conducive to improving the ecosystems, maintaining national ecological security and sustainable socioeconomic development, and is an innovative model for biodiversity conservation.

China' experience in delineating and managing the ecological red lines can serve as reference for the international community for biodiversity conservation and ecological protection and management. China is ready to share its experiences in the implementation of ecological red lines with other countries through academic forums, exchanges and mutual visits, in order to contribute to global biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Zou Changxin, a researcher at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science, Ministry of Ecology and Environment

China's experiences can help the rest of the world

The text of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 22, 1992, setting the three goals of biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of biodiversity, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The convention was signed at the UN conference on environment and development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 1992, where then premier Li Peng signed it on behalf of China, making China one of the first parties to the convention.

Over the past three decades, China has perfected the laws, regulations and policies on biodiversity, the ecological environment, agriculture, forestry and other fields, and promulgated and revised the Law on the Protection of the Environment, the Law on the Protection of Wildlife, the Seed Law, the Law on the Protection of the Marine Environment, and the Regulations on Nature Reserves.

The recently enacted Biosecurity Law makes "protecting biological resources and ecological environment and promoting the healthy development of biotechnology" its goal with the aim of improving the legal system related to biodiversity.

As a party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, China has strictly complied with the obligations of the convention and other protocols, and submitted to the international biodiversity conservation body high-quality reports. China's sixth national report on the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, submitted in 2019, assessed the country's progress in implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-30, which, passed by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity as a programmatic document for global biodiversity governance, identified 20 global biodiversity targets to be achieved by 2020.

The report shows China has made remarkable progress in implementing the convention in 13 major targeted areas, including setting up land nature reserves and restoring and safeguarding important ecosystem services. For China, the next step should be to improve the system of laws and regulations, and advance the development of science and technology to check, even reverse the biodiversity loss trend.

The COP15 in Kunming will discuss global biodiversity governance, finalize the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and set the global biodiversity governance direction for the next decade. China will participate in the formulation of this landmark global strategy document, and contribute to global biodiversity governance by sharing its experiences in implementing the document.

Xu Jing, a researcher at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China.

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