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Embarking on a new journey of conservation

By Yue Xiaohua | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-18 08:11

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]

That Kunming hosted the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 15), with "Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth" as its theme, is a reflection of China's remarkable achievements in biodiversity conservation.

And the white paper, "Biodiversity Conservation in China", that the State Council Information Office released on Oct 8 shows the great importance China attaches to biodiversity conservation.

Since it joined the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, China has been taking effective measures to conserve biodiversity in accordance with the requirements of the convention and other protocols. It has also worked out strategic plans, enacted laws and regulations on biodiversity conservation, and strengthened law enforcement.

Moreover, China has established the China National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation, which is headed by the vice-premier, set up a performance office, and held regular coordination meetings.

In terms of development strategy and planning, China has issued the China Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan (1994), the National Plan for the Conservation and Utilization of Biological Species Resources (2006-20), and the China Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-30).

It has also incorporated biodiversity conservation into the overall national development plan and related special plans, such as the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, and the National Master Plan for Major Ecosystem Protection and Restoration Projects (2021-35).

Also, the Biosafety Law (2021), the Environmental Protection Law, the Wildlife Protection Law, and the Regulations on Nature Reserves have been enacted, and made part of the national ecological civilization program, in order to strengthen biodiversity conservation. In 2018, better conserve biodiversity, the government amended the National Park Law. And in May this year, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment passed the "Opinions on Further Strengthening Biodiversity Conservation", and Yunnan province and some autonomous prefectures issued local regulations on biodiversity conservation.

Despite all these efforts, however, the trend of biodiversity loss in China is yet to be reversed, and biodiversity conservation still faces challenges such as lack of funds.

COP 15, like other biodiversity conferences, has passed a number of resolutions, and is expected to set biodiversity conservation targets for the next 10 years in the second phase of the meeting early next year. For example, the 2010 biodiversity conservation target was set at COP 6 in 2002, with all the parties promising to "significantly reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity at global, regional and national levels by 2010". And the "Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-20", also known as "Aichi Targets", was passed at COP 10 in 2010.

According to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the current status of life on earth is alarming, given the continued extinction of species, decline in the number of wildlife, loss of natural habitats and forests, and depletion of ecosystems.

Non-sustainable economic development patterns and rapid population growth are the main reasons behind the loss of biodiversity, depletion of ecosystems, vanishing wildlife and species extinction. To make matters worse, there is a lack of political will in many countries to conserve biodiversity.

The goals of the convention, in addition to biodiversity conservation, include the sustainable use of its components and fair sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Yet striking a balance between the different goals is a challenge facing almost all countries, as well as the international community.

Since the Aichi Targets have not been realized, it is incumbent upon the international community to take targeted action to conserve biodiversity. Therefore, the political will of all countries is needed to improve the biodiversity conservation.

As climate change and biodiversity loss are interlinked in many ways, the international community should also take concerted measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better protect the environment, and promote cooperation among countries and regions to conserve biodiversity.

The COP 15 in Kunming served as a platform for exchange among the parties to the convention as well as for biodiversity education. So it can been as a meeting point of past conservation work and the starting of a new stage of biodiversity conservation.

Yet it is mandatory to complement the shortcomings of the convention, and strengthen cooperation among countries in order to achieve the future goals of biodiversity conservation.

The author is an associate professor at the Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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