While enjoying benefits and conveniences brought by technological progress, we have fallen into a crisis over the relationship between mankind and nature. At present, the world is facing severe challenges such as accelerated species extinction, biodiversity losse and ecosystem degradation. All these facts warn mankind that we must reflect deeply on the relationship between man and nature.
The Xi Jinping thought on ecological civilization draws on traditional Chinese culture and these aphorisms:“Man is an integral part of nature”; and “Dao follows the laws of nature”. It put forward the groundbreaking idea that there is no welfare or public product more universally beneficial and equitable than a sound natural environment. The thought, highly consistent with the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN SDGs, contributes Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to global ecological environmental governance.
Since the 18th Communist Party of China National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has accelerated the development of top-level design and a system of institutions for an ecological civilization, including ecological conservation red lines (ECRLs), an important institutional innovation in China’s land use planning and biodiversity protection reform. In this process, we have created a PA framework with a focus on national parks, and launched a series of projects for the integrated conservation and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, farmland, lakes, and grasslands. As a result, remarkable institutional guarantees have been established for the restoration of biodiversity. This is mainly reflected in the following aspects:
First, the society has a more profound understanding of biodiversity conservation. The whole party and society cherish the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. More and more people have turned their role from users to protectors, making a living on “ecological protection” as guards for wild animals or forests. Since 2016, Tibet and Qinghai have provided more than 900,000 ecological jobs for local residents, and increased the income of farmers and herdsmen by nearly 8 billion yuan accumulatively.
Second, basic research on biodiversity has been comprehensively improved. A number of major biodiversity surveys, scientific investigations, and scientific research projects have been initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the National Forestry and Grass Administration and other ministries and commissions and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These research projects have strengthened the strategic biological resource platform and field research station network construction. As a result, domestic biodiversity research kept pace with international ones, with researches on omics-based origin, evolution and maintenance mechanisms of biodiversity and conservation biology of endangered species leading the world.
Third, the largest eco-environmental conservation and restoration campaign has been launched scientifically. China has implemented key ecosystem-related projects including conservation and restoration of natural forests, sandstorm source control in Beijing and Tianjin, stony desertification control, the Three-North (i.e., Northeast China, North China and Northwest China) Shelterbelt Forest Program and other key forest programs, programs turning marginal farmland into forests and grasslands, programs returning grazing lands to grasslands, conservation and restoration of lakes, rivers and inland wetlands, and conservation and restoration of mangrove forests and coastal wetlands. China has launched 25 pilot projects and 10 integrated projects for the conservation and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, farmland, lakes, grasslands, and deserts. China brings essential ecological functional areas for biodiversity conservation and various ecological conservation regions under the ECRLs. Between 2000 and 2017, China contributed about 25 percent of global vegetation growth, the biggest share among all countries.
Finally, construction of the natural reserve system and protection of wild animals and plants have reached a new level. Since 1956, when the first nature reserve was set up, China has established close to 10,000 PAs of all types and at all levels, accounting for about 18 percent of its total land area， achieving the 17% target set in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets ahead of schedule. The well-planned PA system has brought 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 71 percent of key state-protected wildlife species under effective protection. Well-planned campaigns have been launched to save endangered species, helping to restore and downgrade many species of endangered wildlife, with the most successful case exemplified by world renowned giant pandas.
Generally speaking, the biodiversity system of terrestrial ecosystem has been well protected. However, due to multiple threats such as land use and climate changes, pollution, and invasion of alien species, biodiversity has continued to decline, facing many challenges especially in marine biodiversity protection, an important part of biodiversity conservation. Studies have shown that China’s coral reef ecosystem has been seriously damaged. In recent years, the coverage of live reef corals in some areas has decreased to less than 10%. General Secretary Xi attached great importance to the construction of marine ecological civilization. Xi has proposed building a maritime community with a shared future by strengthening prevention and control of marine pollution and biodiversity, and developing ordered utilization of marine resources for the blue sea and sky for future generations. We will strengthen the planning of marine national parks and protected areas to strengthen the protection and restoration of marine biodiversity, especially that of coral reefs.
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) kicked off Monday in China's southwestern city Kunming to set the post-2020 biodiversity framework, and expectations are high for a blueprint on preserving global biodiversity in the coming decade. As the host country and president-designate of COP15, China is actively organizing discussions and consultations on the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, striving to achieve an ambitious and pragmatic landmark framework that balance three goals of the CBD and addressing concerns of developing countries, which will inject new impetus into global biodiversity governance.
At present, China has come into a new stage of biodiversity conservation and biological research. We will tap into COP15 to embark on a new journey of scientific China's biodiversity conservation so as to realize the worldwide vision of harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature.
Contributed by Wei Fuwen, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Executive Deputy Director of the Endangered Species Science Committee, PRC
Translated by Wu You