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'Historic opportunity' to help draw up a new deal for nature

2019-06-03author:source:China Daily

China, as one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, has won plaudits from the international community over its efforts to protect the environment.

The country is home to 35,000 higher plant species, 8,000 vertebrate species and 28,000 kinds of marine organisms. It also has more cultivated plant and domesticated animal species than any other country, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

"China has been taking biodiversity protection extremely seriously, with many concrete and ambitious actions to conserve nature," said Scott Vaughan, international chief adviser of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development.

Marco Lambertini, director-general of the World Wide Fund for Nature International, said that China's efforts to restore the ecosystem is a story of global significance.

"China has strengthened both top-level design and the mechanism for biodiversity conservation. Ecological civilization has been integrated into the highest levels of decision-making," he said.

One important action was to promote the Convention on Biological Diversity. In 2015, China created a nationwide biodiversity protection network. It put more than 1.7 million square kilometers under protection to meet 2020 targets set by the multinational convention. The area makes up 18 percent of the country's land mass, covering more than 90 percent of land ecosystem types and more than 89 percent of wildlife.

Many provincial regions including Sichuan, Guangxi and Chongqing have launched action plans or guidelines in the sector. Southwest China's Yunnan province also issued the country's first biodiversity protection regulations.

China's newly revised Environmental Protection Law has highlighted the drawing of red lines - limits that cannot be crossed - for environmental protection, requiring governments at all levels to pour more resources into the protection of natural reserves for rare and endangered species of wild fauna and flora.

Observations will be strengthened and new laws to guard China's biodiversity have been proposed in a bid to enhance biodiversity protection and supervision.

Thanks to these efforts, some endangered species like the giant panda, Siberian tiger and Asian elephant are on the road to recovery.

"Nature across most of the globe has now been significantly altered by multiple human drivers, with the great majority of indicators of ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline," noted a summary of a global assessment report on biodiversity released in May by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

The numbers are telling: Around 1 million species face extinction, many within decades. Nearly 100 million hectares of tropical forests were lost between 1980 and 2000, and 87 percent of wetland areas have been lost since the 18th century.

"This decline jeopardizes the many benefits we derive from nature," Lambertini said. "We depend on it for our basic needs - food, water, air, medicines and physical and mental well-being. The services provided by nature are estimated to be worth $125 trillion a year - double the world's GDP."

Many conservation and sustainability goals set for 2020 are not going to be met. It is a must to adopt new, transformative measures right now, according to the report.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, will be an important opportunity to form an ambitious and realistic post-2020 biodiversity framework to continue the global action, experts say.

"I have never seen such high expectations for a successful COP as today," Vaughan said. "Many look to the 2020 biodiversity meeting as the chance to do for nature what the 2015 Paris summit has done for climate, that is, bring the world community together to agree on bold, transformative actions to safeguard nature for our children."

Lambertini said: "WWF, along with many others, is calling for a new deal for nature and people in 2020 to reverse the loss of biodiversity and restore nature by 2030 for the benefit of people and the planet."

"The Convention on Biological Diversity has to be a centerpiece of this new deal. We hope that the COP15 will adopt an ambitious plan for the CBD for the next 10 years, in support of the sustainable development goals.

"The plan should aim to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and it should include transparent implementation and accountability mechanisms," he added.

China will host the global event in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, next year.

Vaughan said: "China's role as the host of COP15 is a historic opportunity to help convene a new deal for nature.

"The country is today one of the most important leaders of multinational action. It therefore has the opportunity to help shape a biodiversity agenda that is defined by bold actions guided by science, defined by more South-South cooperation and that includes people at the very heart of action."

Lambertini expects China to be at the center of creating momentum toward a strong agreement for the CBD for the next 10 years.

"We call on China to take a leadership role in promoting the new deal for nature and people, as part of a wide coalition of other champions including governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations," he said.

"China's engagement at the highest political level is critical for the success of the new deal," he noted.

"Now is the right time for China to expand its green initiatives to all sectors of society in the country and to its overseas operations. It is also time for China to work with like-minded countries and players to involve the entire world in the formulation of a robust new deal with nature."

haonan@chinadaily.com.cn

E-mail:li.yutong@mepfeco.org.cn

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