Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth: China in Action
Position Paper of the People’s Republic of China for the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity
21 September 2020
China supports the United Nations in holding the Biodiversity Summit and lauds the UN efforts and contributions in advancing global environmental governance. Against the backdrop of accelerated global biodiversity loss and the impact of COVID-19 on various aspects of the economy and society, it is imperative that all parties work together to address the serious challenges facing global biodiversity.
China attaches great importance to biodiversity, adheres to the philosophy of ecological civilization, and has been working continuously to expedite the mainstreaming of biodiversity across all departments and sectors, promote effective restoration and protection of ecosystems through the implementation of ecological conservation projects and other measures, improve public participation, and boost international cooperation and exchanges on biodiversity. Sustained efforts have been made toward the initiative of “building a beautiful China”. China is ready to share its experience in advancing ecological civilization with all parties and step up cooperation on biodiversity in order to move the world toward the 2050 Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”.
As the incoming presidency of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), China is a staunch advocate of multilateralism and has always been an active participant and facilitator of the multilateral process of biodiversity. China stands for the balanced implementation of the Convention’s three objectives, namely the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. China urges all parties, under the principles of fairness, transparency and parties-driven process, to broaden consensus, move in the same direction, and facilitate the adoption of an ambitious, balanced and realistic Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and move toward a more just and equitable biodiversity governance system that embodies the best efforts of all parties.
I. Adhering to the Philosophy of Ecological Civilization
In light of the serious challenges presented by industrialization such as environmental pollution and ecosystem degradation, the Chinese government has been advocating and working to advance ecological civilization, which draws upon the ancient Chinese notion of “unity of nature and man” and “follow nature’s course”. It embodies the cultural ethics based on the tenets of harmonious coexistence between man and nature, among human beings and between humanity and society, virtuous cycle, all-round development and sustainable prosperity. The philosophy is underpinned by eight principles that China upholds, i.e., civilizations thrive on their natural surroundings; man and nature should coexist in harmony; lucid water and lush mountains are invaluable assets; no welfare is more universally beneficial than a sound natural environment; mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands are part of a community of life; the strictest regulations and laws must be applied in protecting the environment; an all-nation effort is needed to build a beautiful China; global ecological conservation requires the joint efforts of all; and ecological civilization must be incorporated into all aspects and the whole process of advancing economic, political, cultural, and social progress. These principles align closely with the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. They are also highly compatible with the 2050 Vision “Living in harmony with nature”.
Ecological civilization was enshrined in the Chinese constitution in 2018 and embedded in the master blueprint of national development. China has put forward the philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. Guided by the philosophy of ecological civilization, China’s efforts in this regard have kicked into high gear. The beautiful scroll of bluer skies, greener mountains and clearer waters will unfold in front of the world.
Building a shared future for all life on Earth represents the shared aspiration of mankind. Faced with the ecological challenges, all people are members of a community where they rise and fall together. China adheres to the philosophy of ecological civilization and has made remarkable progress in this respect. China is willing to join hands with the international community to raise the awareness of respecting, following and protecting nature, actively share its experience in advancing ecological civilization, stay committed to green development and a low-carbon, circular and sustainable mode of production and life, jointly build a shared future for all life on Earth, and chart the course for global ecological civilization.
II. Adopting Strong Policy Measures
1. Accelerating the Mainstreaming of Biodiversity
China has developed inter-agency government coordination mechanisms for biodiversity. In 2011, the China National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation (CNCBC), composed of 23 departments under the State Council and headed by a Vice Premier, was established to promote communication and collaboration among departments and coordinate biodiversity actions at the national level.
China has formulated and executed a strategic plan for biodiversity conservation. Drafted and adopted in 2010, the China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030) identified the overall goals, strategic tasks and priority actions for biodiversity conservation in the country for the coming two decades. Since 2015, China has conducted wildlife survey and monitoring through major biodiversity conservation projects, logging more than 2.1 million entries. Continued efforts have been made to track and evaluate the progress in the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan.
China has incorporated biodiversity into its overall planning for economic and social development, ecological protection and restoration, land use as well as its special plans. The country puts biodiversity conservation high on the agenda, codifying it into the 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development (2016-2020). A comprehensive structure for ecological conservation has taken shape, marked by the introduction of a national spatial planning framework, setting the ecological conservation red lines and development of a nature reserve system. Measures for the protection and management of biodiversity are clearly identified through plans for ecological protection and improvement, water and soil conservation, rehabilitation of farmland, grassland, rivers and lakes, and protection of endangered wildlife and water resources. In June this year, China unveiled a 15-year comprehensive plan for ecosystem management entitled the Master Plan for the Major Projects for the Protection and Restoration of National Key Ecosystems (2021-2035).
China has accelerated biodiversity conservation efforts at the local level. More than 20 local governments, such as Sichuan and Heilongjiang, have unveiled Provincial Biodiversity Conservation Strategies and Action Plans, with biodiversity conservation committees established to coordinate the implementation of related policies and actions and participate in major decision-making and planning at the local and departmental level in order to effectively support subnational biodiversity conservation.
2. Improving the Legal and Policy Frameworks
China has provided solid legal safeguards for biodiversity conservation. The country has promulgated and revised a host of laws and regulations pertinent to biodiversity conservation, including those on environmental protection, wild animal protection, seeds, livestock, fishery, forestry, grassland, the marine environment, protection of nature reserves and wild plants. Vigorous efforts have also been made to refine laws and regulations on the protection and oversight of biological resources, biosafety and compensation for ecological damage. The legal framework for the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity has seen continuous improvement.
Comprehensive and effective policies for biodiversity conservation have been devised. China has released some 40 documents on advancing ecological civilization, including the Opinions on Accelerating the Advancement of Ecological Civilization and the Integrated Reform Plan for Promoting Ecological Progress. In the meantime, policy measures, such as the Opinions on Delineating and Strictly Observing the Ecological Conservation Red Lines, Guidance on Establishing a Protected Area System Composed Mainly of National Parks, and the Overall Plan for Establishing a National Park System, provide the policy backbone for biodiversity conservation in China.
China has introduced legislation to ban the consumption of wild animals in order to protect public health. On February 24, 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted in favor of the Decision to Comprehensively Prohibit the Illegal Trade of Wild Animals, Eliminate the Bad Habits of Wild Animal Consumption, and Protect the Health and Safety of the People. The Committee also explicitly stated the need to amend the Law on Wild Animal Protection and related regulations and to accelerate the legislation on biosafety.
3. Funding Support
Funding from the Chinese government toward biodiversity conservation has grown steadily in recent years. Over 260 billion yuan was earmarked in biodiversity-related causes each year in 2017 and 2018, six times the amount in 2008. The funding was mainly directed toward such areas as nature reserves, the protection of natural forests and ecosystems, conversion of farmland to forest and grassland, conversion of grazing land to grassland, protection, restoration and utilization of agricultural resources, protection of biological resources, alien species management, grassland protection and restoration, forest resources management, wildlife protection, wetland protection, control of desertification and rocky desertification, reduction of fishing intensity, marine environmental protection and monitoring and related transfer payments. A total of 1.2 billion yuan is allocated from the central budget for national nature reserves alone during the 13th Five-Year Plan period for projects designed to improve their management, monitoring, and scientific research capabilities.
China has used a gamut of fiscal and tax incentives to mobilize private capital for biodiversity conservation. In 2008, the country rolled out a number of preferential income tax provisions and policies and allowed pre-tax deductions, tax exemptions and 50% discounts for eligible enterprises in such sectors as environmental protection, energy and water conservation, comprehensive utilization of resources, public sewage treatment and waste disposal. China adjusted the consumption tax on refined oil products in 2009, which aided in environmental sustainability by increasing the unit tax and leveraging the role of tax measures. Since 2012, pollution discharge fees have been roughly doubled in a number of provinces. In 2018, China’s environmental NGOs raised a total of 3 billion yuan for the protection of wildlife, the marine environment and wetlands, re-vegetation with trees and grasses and environmental education. In 2020, a national green development fund with a registered capital of 88.5 billion yuan was set up. The move is aimed at establishing a green financial system led by the government, predominated by the businesses and participated by social organizations and the public to direct and incentivize more private investments into green industries through innovative financial mechanisms, market-oriented operations and corporate management practices.
4. Strengthening Ecological Protection and Restoration
An array of major ecological protection projects in such areas as wetlands, forests, rivers and desertification have been conducted, and tremendous strides have been made. China subscribes to the philosophy that “mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands are part of a community of life”, and values the continuity and integrity of the natural geographical unit as well as habitat connectivity. Leveraging the self-healing power of nature and advancing ecological restoration projects in a scientific manner, the country has carried out a series of key programs including the protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands, conversion of farmland to forest and grassland, conversion of farmland to wetland, establishment of shelterbelts such as the “Three-North” Shelterbelt and the Yangtze River Shelterbelt, natural forest protection, forest quality improvement, the Beijing-Tianjin Sandstorm Source Control Project, comprehensive treatment of rocky desertification, marine pastures and fishing prohibition in key waters of the Yangtze River Basin. These projects have helped enhance and restore wildlife habitats in key areas. The forest coverage has steadily increased; grassland degradation has been curbed; and wetland protection efforts have seen initial success. Since the tail-end of the 1980s, both forest cover and stock volume have grown for 30 consecutive years. Between 2009 and 2019, China topped the world in forest resource increase with a total of 71.307 million hectares of land afforested. Satellite data show that more than a quarter of the newly added green space in the world between 2000 and 2017 was in China, making it the largest contributor to the greening of the global landscape.
China has been working steadily to put in place a red line system for ecological protection, which marks a crucial institutional innovation for national spatial planning and management. It is yet another line in the sand drawn by the Chinese government following the declaration of a red line of no less than 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) of arable land. The country’s ecological red line is critical in maintaining its ecological security, ecosystem function, and sustainable socioeconomic development. About a quarter of land is scheduled to be covered by the red line by the end of 2020. An ecological red line has been drawn at each level down the chain of government spatial planning. The areas under special protection are important ecologically functional zones and ecologically vulnerable areas and cover all types of nature reserves with national parks being the main component. Environmental degradation caused by human activity has been reduced through strict management protocols. China does not allow its ecological protection red lines to be trampled upon as it strives to protect biodiversity, adjust its economic structure, draw blueprints for industrial development and promote a new type of urbanization. However, this is not equivalent to “absolute” protection for all areas, and is by no means “no man’s land” or a “vacuum” for development. The Chinese government encourages the sustainable utilization of high quality ecological resources and the exploration of mechanisms to tap into the value of ecological products. In other words, lucid waters and lush mountains can be invaluable assets and the ecological benefits can be harnessed to create economic gains.
5. Continuing to Improve In-situ and Ex-situ Conservation
In terms of in-situ conservation, China has made active efforts to establish a protected area system with national parks being the main component. By the end of 2018, China had identified 11,800 protected areas, including 10 pilot national parks, and 474 national-level and 864 provincial-level nature reserves. Together, they span a total of 1.728 million square kilometers, accounting for more than 18% of China’s land mass. A protected area system with a relatively broad spectrum of reserve types, sound layout and complete set of functions has been put in place. Some 90% of the types of natural terrestrial ecosystems, 89% of the species on the national key list of protected wild plants and animals and the majority of China’s natural relics are being protected in the nature reserves.
When it comes to ex-situ conservation, China has set up nearly 200 botanical gardens (arboretums) and preserved more than 23,000 species of plants. The country has also built over 240 zoos (animal exhibition sites), in which 775 species of animals are being cared for, and established 250 wild animal rescue and breeding centers. The populations of close to 10 endangered species including the giant panda and crested ibis have begun to rebound. More than 60 rare and endangered wild animal species have gained a stable population through artificial propagation.
6. Strengthening Capacity Building
China has been committed to data monitoring, research and collation. The country has issued a series of technical guidelines in this field, and created a national biodiversity monitoring and research network composed of 10 special networks and 1 integrated monitoring and management center. It has also undertaken efforts to catalogue biodiversity, resulting in such valuable works as China Biodiversity Red List – Higher Plants, China Biodiversity Red List – Vertebrates, China Biodiversity Red List – Large Fungi and Catalogue of Life in China. They laid a data groundwork for understanding and assessing China’s biodiversity.
China has vigorously built conservation facilities for genetic resources. A national crop germplasm resources conservation system featuring a consortium of long-term banks, mid-term banks, germplasm repositories, in-situ conservation sites and gene banks has been developed. The country has also established a system of protection for livestock and poultry genetic resources supported by the triple helix of breeding protection sites, protected areas and gene banks. To date, 510,000 specimens of crop plants and more than 560 local breeds of livestock and poultry are being preserved long-term. China ranks among the top in the world by both metrics. The country has set up 31 repositories for the preservation of medicinal plant species and 2 germplasm resource banks, which are responsible for the safekeeping of over 12,000 specimens of seeds and seedlings.
China has worked to improve the prevention and control of invasive alien species by refining the legal regime for their management, releasing the list of invasive alien species likely to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems, and advising and supporting local governments in the investigation, monitoring, prevention, elimination and management of invasive alien species. China has also issued a series of technical standards and specifications for the monitoring and risk assessment of genetically modified organisms and products, and improved its GMO safety management. The National Animal and Plant Protection Capacity Improvement Plan (2017-2025) has been devised and implemented to strengthen China’s ability to prevent and manage invasive alien species.
7. Strengthening the Supervision and Inspection of Biodiversity Conservation
China has continued to step up oversight and investigation of illegal activities such as the damage and endangerment of biodiversity. The monitoring of some 400 national nature reserves through satellite remote sensing has been completed, and 225 national scenic areas are all under the monitoring of remote sensing instruments. The country has adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal activities in nature reserves, and imposed severe penalties accordingly following special investigations. China has actively engaged in international cooperation to investigate and prosecute criminal acts involving wildlife, and conducted special operations to combat illegal firearms and explosives in order to curb at the source the use of firearms for hunting. In addition, the country has cracked down on such activities as the trafficking of precious or endangered animal and plant species and products, investigated and prosecuted the illicit distribution and mailing of seeds and seedlings, launched special campaigns against illegal fishing in the Yangtze River Basin and the sale of illegally caught fish, and cut off the chain of unlawful fishing, transportation and sale of wild fish in the Yangtze River.