Distinguished Mr. Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment,
Distinguished Leaders, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon,
“天地之大德曰生” from 易经(Yì Jīng), tells us that the greatest morality between heaven and earth is to treasure every life in this world.
Without nature, we are nothing. Our planet can only keep sustaining humanity if we protect its biodiversity and ecosystems. Yet, 3/4 of the Earth’s land and 2/3 of our oceans are now negatively impacted by humans. Around 1 million species are now threatened with extinction by 2050, a rate tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years. The COVID-19 pandemic is yet the latest sign of our broken relationship with nature.
But it’s not too late to turn the tide. As we enter the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), the COP 15 on the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming will be critical to raise the level of ambition, expand commitments and take decisive action to protect our planet for future generations. As the host country for the COP15, China has an important opportunity to champion this effort. The consensus reached here on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework will have major ramifications worldwide, and could be for biodiversity protection what the Paris Agreement has been for addressing climate change.
UNDP has worked in China for over two decades with more than 10 ministries, including the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and most provinces, on biodiversity protection, sharing our global network and expertise. Working together, we have seen encouraging headway: thanks to new redlining approaches, the coverage of fully protected terrestrial areas has increased to 2.4 million square kilometers equivalent to 25% of China’s land mass.
To build on this progress, I would like to put forward five key recommendations for effective biodiversity protection in China and beyond:
1. Firstly, we need to enhance biodiversity cooperation across sectors, and areas. Biodiversity connects different sectors, and has no obvious thematic and geographic boundaries. So solving biodiversity challenges require cross-sectoral coordination and alignment and consensus among sectors and regions.
2. Secondly, for more effective natural resources management, we must move towards integrated spatial planning approaches, and coordinate land, water and sea conservation. In the past, many conservation concepts have been promoted including: integrated management of river basins, ecosystems, water resources. It will be important to consolidate these strategies.
3. Thirdly, the connection between biodiversity and climate change must underpin all policy decisions. They are two sides of the same coin. Ecosystems can serve as carbon sinks. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) found that from 2001-2010, annual carbon sequestration of terrestrial ecosystems was equal to offsetting 14.1% of China's fossil fuel emissions. This is highly significant given China’s 2060 carbon neutrality pledge.
4. Fourthly, financing is crucial. Sustainable biodiversity financing tools – including Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and Green Finance – should be expanded. UNDP leads the BIOFIN programme, cooperating with 40 countries to facilitate the application of these tools. Together with MEE and the Departments of Ecology and Environment in Yunnan and Shanghai, we are launching China’s BIOFIN programme next month in Kunming.
5. Finally, we must harness technology to transform biodiversity protection. New cutting-edge technologies such as AI and big data have great potential. They can help enforcement of conservation measures through real-time tracking and monitoring that can enhance early warning systems.
In closing, let me thank the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) for leading the coordination and preparation for the CBD COP 15 in Kunming this October.
UNDP stands ready to work with China to make COP15 a success in delivering an ambitious, specific, and measurable post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
With commitment and courage, I am convinced that we can produce a transformative post 2020 framework that can accelerate progress towards sustainable development and protect our planet for all who call it home.
Happy International Biodiversity Day to all! Thank you.