China’s biodiversity efforts
Editor's Note: Muhammad Asif Noor is Director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies (IPDS). The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China has recently published a white paper presenting a lucid account of Chinese biodiversity and its effort to preserve diverse natural habitat. The detailed document has revealed the actions and initiatives taken by China to protect biodiversity and the vision of biodiversification. The paper titled ‘Biodiversity Conservation in China’ reflects how and by what modern and up-to-date measures China preserves biodiversity and what possible steps it is likely to take for better conservation. China’s global role in the conservation of biodiversity and promotion of climate change efforts has been recognised by friends and even foes. The paper has also been released around the time when the world is preparing for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 starting from the end of October. This paper is a milestone in China’s global effort and contributions towards protecting the planet.
The white paper is published in pursuance of 26 biodiversity conservation principles set forth by the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Subsequently, Convention on Biological diversity went into force in 1993 which further laid down three objectives i.e. conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of components of biodiversity, and sharing equitable benefits of genetic resources. China’s landmass and maritime territory produce diverse climate patterns, multiple species, and rich genetic variety. Since the 18th National Congress of CPC in 2012, China has been actively pursuing a policy of preserving the ecosystem, biological diversity, and climate. President Xi Jinping with his visionary leadership has spearheaded the immense changes in the legal system, policymaking and decision making to expedite measures to prevent ecosystem degradation. China National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation (CNCBC) has an important role to play in these entire efforts.
In the conservation of nature, China holds the principle of social harmony between human beings and living beings in the natural habitat. In this regard, China has taken certain steps which include respect to nature and priority to biodiversity conservation, seeking green development and sustainable use of bioresources, increasing institutional capacity and integrated efforts for bioconservation. Furthermore, China is an active advocate of multilateral efforts to harmonise natural species and habitats by proactive conservation. China is working with developing countries to develop their capacity of bioconservation where living species are already endangered.
Over the years, China has taken certain measures which reflect the seriousness of the cause at hand. In effect, China has created ten thousand protected areas at multiple levels covering 18% of its territory for conservation. There are national nature parks, nature reserves and supplementary parks as the central effort for the protection of natural habitat, eco-system including maritime ecology. China has established a unified management system of protected areas and started its expansion as it initiated 10 new national parks currently on trial biases in the vicinity of Yangtze, Sanjiangyuan, Yellow and Lancang rivers. The total protected area facilitates 90% of the terrestrial ecosystem as well as 71% of state-protected wildlife species
These steps bore fruitful results as the population of giant pandas in the wild grew from 1,114 to 1,864 over four decades. The population of crested ibis remarkably grew from only seven to five thousand heads over time. The number of Asian elephants stands at 300 which used to be only 180 during the 1980s. Hannon Gibbons were almost extinct around 40 years ago when they were hardly 10 in two groups but they grew to 35 in 5 groups over the four decades.
For further steps to ensure conservation, China has set up an innovative measure to establish Ecological Conservation Red Lines (ECRL) which will enable China to legally prevent human beings from affecting natural landscapes and their habitat. China identified vulnerable areas such as Tianshan Mountains, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Inner Mongolian Plateau, Qinling Mountains, Yellow River Basin and coastal zones. This diversity of landscape covers forests, deserts, wetlands, grasslands, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and all-encompassing species surviving in these ecosystems which China wants to protect. This Chinese initiative, of creating redlines for ecological reasons to protect species and prevent climate change, is selected by the UN as one of the best nature-based solutions across the world.
In addition, China has relentlessly worked on green development across the country. Since 2000, China has contributed 25% growth in the global vegetation sector making it the biggest share in the world. Over the decades, China has managed to preserve the forests land area and the highest growth in forest resources in the world. It has led China to control pollution to a significant level. The concentration of ambient particulate matter has sharply declined by 28.3% while the quality of air has increased by 5.8% since 2015. China has maintained good quality surface water under state control enabling it to improve water quality up to 83.4% in 2020, 17% up since 2015. China managed to increase the rate, exceeding 90%, of the safe utility of contaminated arable land and contaminated land.
Considering the progress in climate change landmarks, China has also achieved the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 ten years ahead of the schedule i.e. 2020. The most important of them is the Aichi targets which cover global biodiversity targets. China has achieved three Aichi targets i.e. terrestrial nature reserves, provision of ecosystem services, and increasing ecosystem resilience while making considerable progress in thirteen areas such as sustainable management of agriculture, mainstreaming biodiversity, forestry, fishery, and sustainable production. By making all the efforts at home, China is adamant to support other partner states to work on biodiversification in line with the UN conventions and sustainable development goals. Pakistan also needs to learn a lot from the Chinese experience in building its biodiversity conservation efforts.