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Global efforts needed to protect biodiversity

By Sugath Rathnayake | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-10-16 14:14

Kunming, Yunnan province, has been decorated with flower clusters, landscaping and lighting to welcome the opening of COP15. [Photo by Hu Hu Yunlong and Xu Jun/chinadaily.com.cn]

Many environmental problems have arisen due to human activities. This is due to the fact that they make decisions without focusing on the environment protection and thinking only of their own benefits. As a result of these selfish decisions, society as a whole is now facing a number of environmental problems.

Conservation of biodiversity is a serious human challenge. We are destroying the biodiversity of our planet. The global ecosystem is a complex design that we have not yet fully understood. The diversity of life on Earth and the natural ecosystem can be simply called biodiversity. Currently, global biodiversity is declining rapidly. Species are disappearing faster than expected. A study conducted by the National Automated University of Mexico found that we lost 500 species in the last century. The main reason for this is human activities. If we do not stop these human activities, we will cause irreversible damage to our ecosystem.

These are some major challenges facing biodiversity. These include population growth, pollution, over-consumption of resources, and climate change. As the human population grows, we will deforest and sand fill water-logged areas also use for new habitats. Deforestation has driven away animals, including birds, and deprived them of their natural habitat. So, isn't it these human activities that call them untimely death? The efforts of the world community to reverse the damage done to humankind by nature are not enough. By the end of the 2010 Aichi Biodiversity Goals 2020, the world had achieved some things; however, action, ambition and influence were not enough.

Developing nations need more support to achieve their goals in order to address biodiversity conservation. The war against nature is dangerously escalating. The United Nations secretary-general has said that making peace with nature is a defining task of the 21st century. The entire world community must understand this and act responsibly.

Conservation of biodiversity is the responsibility of the global community. In the development process, we must move toward development while protecting biodiversity. This will secure the future of the common human community. Biodiversity is extremely important for maintaining the productivity of an ecosystem, and it is important to protect to ensure food security, climate change and the availability of resources for medicines.

We must protect biodiversity in order to preserve species diversity, sustainable use of species and ecosystems, and to maintain life-sustaining systems and vital ecosystems. Biodiversity conservation brings many benefits to mankind. Biodiversity conservation can prevent soil erosion, control pests and diseases, recycling nutrients, as well as protect the genetic resources of animals, plants and micro-organisms.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) was held in Kunming, the capital of southwest China's Yunnan province. With the theme of "Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth", the conference covered a wide range of topics, including climate change and nature-based environmental protection and reforms.

It is the first global conference convened by the United Nations under the theme "Environmental Civilization". Participants are reviewed the "Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework" to develop a plan for future biodiversity conservation. It is hoped that this framework will replace the biodiversity goals that have led to its implementation over the past 10 years. Further, conservation measures based on protected areas and other effective areas, marine and biodiversity, invasive alien species, sustainable wildlife management, biodiversity and climate change, biodiversity and agriculture, biodiversity and health, natural and culture topics also discussed at this conference.

During the first session of this conference the United Nations Biological Diversity Convention adopted the Kunming Declaration. The declaration is committed to ensuring the development, adoption and implementation of an effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The declaration also called for increasing the provision of financial, technical and capacity building assistance to developing countries to implement the framework. It also seeks to reform incentive structures, eliminate subsidies and other incentives that are detrimental to biodiversity. The Kunming Declaration further states that the framework should include the implementation mechanisms needed to ensure that the current biodiversity loss is reversed and that biodiversity is on track to be restored by 2030, as well as appropriate mechanisms for monitoring, reporting and reviewing.

More than 100 countries have signed this declaration. The signed declaration will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly, the 2022 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environment Council at the second session of this conference in Kunming from April 25 to May 8, 2022.

China, a country with some of the world's richest biological resources, has put biodiversity conservation high on its policy agenda. Over the past few years, China has played a commendable role as a strong supporter and contributor to the Global Biodiversity Agenda. China is one of the 17 largest biodiversity hotspots in the world and is home to about 10 percent of all plant species and about 14 percent of the world's earth animals.

The Chinese government has taken a number of steps to protect biodiversity. These steps can be divided into short-term and long-term. According to the short-term plan, by the end of 2025, about 75 percent of the nationally protected wildlife and about 80 percent of the nationally protected plants will be protected. According to long-term plan, by the end of 2035 the average forest coverage of China will increase to 26 percent and the comprehensive grassland coverage will increase to 60 percent. It is a very ambitious target.

The Chinese concept of "mountains and rivers green are mountains of silver and gold" is gaining popularity around the world. China is committed to green development and looks forward to cooperation as well as exchanges with all parties. Accordingly, China has already pledged to move forward with a more sensible effort to protect biodiversity. Other countries need to invest more in biodiversity conservation.

China is set to develop a national biodiversity conservation strategy and action plan for the new era. Biodiversity conservation will be included in the medium and long-term development plans of each region. Major biodiversity conservation projects will also be carried out, and conservation measures will be further enhanced to ensure that vital ecosystems, species and traditional resources are fully protected. In addition, public participation in public education and environmental protection will be encouraged. Accordingly, China's philosophy of environmental civilization will be decisive for all countries to achieve global biodiversity goals.

Despite the COVID-19 epidemic, I have witnessed the efforts of the Chinese government as well as the Yunnan provincial authorities and the Kunming administration to hold this crucial conference. I practically experienced how Kunming was so beautifully decorated for the conference. Accordingly, China's concrete actions have demonstrated its determination to work collectively with the rest of the world to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Those aspirations must be implemented not only in China but also in other countries. China has played a leading role in this. China has also incorporated ecological civilization into its country's national development policy and constitution. Further, China was one of the first countries to join the Biodiversity Convention. China has already achieved remarkable results in terms of biodiversity conservation and reconstruction.

A few days before this COP 15 conference, China's first white paper on biodiversity was released. According to the pamphlet, China helps developing countries to conserve biodiversity through multilateral ways such as Belt and Road Initiative and South-South cooperation. China has already established the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition. Under that alliance, the Belt and Road Big Data Service Platform on Ecological and Environmental Protection has been launched. In addition, China pledged last year that it will strive to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. China has pledged further support to other developing countries to promote green and low-carbon energy. It has also promised not to build new energy projects from overseas coal-fired power plants.

Kunming, where the COP15 conference was held, is an important place for global biodiversity. Kunming is known as the Spring City of China and Yunnan province is world-famous as "animal kingdom", "plant kingdom" and "world park". The province, home to more than half of China's flora and fauna and more than 6,000 species of animals, has launched various initiatives to protect biodiversity over the past few decades. Over the past five years, more than 120 rescue and conservation projects targeting plant species with minimal populations have been implemented in Yunnan, marking 30 protected zones. Yunnan afforestation and environmental protection have been actively pursued. In 2019, 263,700 hectares were planted by manpower and 53,200 hectares of forests were protected by restricting access to mountainous areas.

Humans have been harming the natural ecosystem for decades. We are all now experiencing the consequences. Its repercussions will intensify in the coming decades. But the world's efforts are not enough to reverse the damage that humanity has done to nature. Governments, international organizations, including the United Nations, non-governmental organizations must work together to compensate for the damage done to humans by the natural environment. For that, we must all work hand in hand.

The author is a lecturer at Yunnan University School of Foreign Languages, former foreign expert for China Media Group (CMG) Sinhala Service, a senior journalist of Sri Lanka and published author.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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