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China: Over 100 nations to adopt ‘Kunming Declaration’ to boost biodiversity 13.10.2021

Amid an unprecedented extinction event, scientists have warned that protecting biodiversity is essential to protecting human life. However, experts are unsure whether China has the experience to lead a global effort.

As of Wednesday, more than 100 countries have signed on to the so-called Kunming Declaration to protect biodiversity .

Speaking at a UN climate conference in the Chinese city of Kunming, China’s Environment Minister Huang Runqi praised the declaration and the enthusiasm, but added that it was a statement of political will and not a binding agreement.

The document calls for “urgent and integrated” steps to tackle decreasing biodiversity around the world, with particular emphasis on how many sectors of the global economy have contributed to a dangerous decrease in habitats and species over the past century.

One of the measures suggested by the declaration is increased funding for conservation in poorer countries, as well as vowing to create more sustainable and environmentally friendly supply chains.

With plant and animal species disappearing at a rate not seen on earth for 10 million years, many believe that protecting biodiversity is a crucial factor for the planet’s survival. A previous declaration made in 2010 in the Japanese city of Aichi set similarly lofty targets for the year 2020 — none of which were met.

Criticism for Kunming

One major international plan to protect the enviroment is a call by the United Nations for countries to protect and conserve 30% of their territory by 2030 — a target known as “30 by 30.” While the concept was acknowledged at the conference, China has not made clear how much it supports the idea.

“The Kunming Declaration gives us a hint on China’s leadership style. The declaration made a reference to the 30 by 30 target, but did not indicate if Beijing is on board with it or not,” Greenpeace East Asia’s senior climate advisor, Li Shuo, told DW.

“That’s a balancing act, to recognize the growing momentum behind this goal while not prejudicing the multilateral process. Beijing should make up its mind soon if it wants to lead from the front.”

  • A close-up shot of a bee pollinating a plant

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    1. Bees

    It’s no secret that bees are vital — in fact, they were even declared the most important species on Earth by the Royal Geographical Society. As the world’s foremost pollinators, they play a major role in the life cycle of many plant species and help maintain healthy ecosystems. They are also responsible for pollinating many of the crops we eat.

  • Leaf-cutter ants

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    2. Ants

    We might consider them a pest at times, but ants are another common insect we should never take for granted. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica and fulfill a variety of roles, from circulating nutrients in the soil, to dispersing seeds and eating other insects. Scientists are currently studying the possible impact of climate change on ant colonies around the world.

  • A close up shot of two mushrooms

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    3. Fungi

    Neither plant nor animal, microbe or protozoa, fungi are sometimes described as the “fifth kingdom of life on Earth.” They can be found in the water, in the soil and in the air. They essentially act as the world’s natural nutrient recyclers and some species can even absorb harmful metals like mercury and digest polyurethane plastics.

  • A microscopic image of phytoplankton

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    4. Phytoplankton

    It’s hard to understate just how important these micro-organisms are to life on Earth. For one thing, they produce more than 50 percent of the planet’s atmospheric oxygen — without them, the amount of free oxygen in the atmosphere would be much lower, making for a very uncomfortable environment. They are also the foundation of the food chain in marine ecosystems.

  • A flying fox hanging upside down

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    5. Bats

    What do bananas, baobab trees and tequila have in common? They all depend on bats for pollination and insect regulation. All over the world, different species of bats fill a vital ecological niche to ensure certain crops continue to thrive. A healthy population of bats can save millions of dollars worth of pesticides and they are an important sign of a robust ecosystem.

  • A close-up picture of an earthworm

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    6. Earthworms

    The humble earthworm is so important to Earth’s biosphere that it is sometimes referred to as an “ecosystem engineer.” They lead busy lives aerating and enriching the soil and recycling organic material — and, of course, occupying an indispensable place in the food chain. Despite their status as a stalwart of many ecosystems, certain species are under threat from such things as land clearance.

  • A gorilla in DR Congo

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    7. Primates

    As our closest living biological relatives, primates offer a great deal of insight into human biology. They are also a keystone species in many tropical forests, serving as “gardeners” by dispersing seeds and creating places where new plants can grow. In order for such forests to survive and thrive, we need to ensure the survival of the primates who inhabit them.

  • Fish on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia

    Vital species we can’t afford to lose

    8. Coral

    Often called the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs fill a diverse range of roles, from serving as a foundation for intricate food webs, to protecting coastlines. Researchers also estimate coral reefs support as much as a quarter of all marine life, making them one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. The loss of coral reefs would imply the loss of countless marine species.

    Author: Ineke Mules

Li Shuo said China’s domestic actions could spur global efforts on biodiversity.

“Yesterday’s commitment to fund biodiversity protection at a larger scale could be the impetus others need to direct finance toward protecting biodiversity. But much remains to be seen on whether Beijing can spearhead a delicate multilateral process.”

The delegates at the Kunming conference have been criticized by activists for bickering over specific language choices in the declaration instead of concentrating on the enormity of the challenges being faced.

There was much consternation from other countries when China released a draft of the document in August, as it contained many phrases and slogans associated with Chinese President Xi Jinping, such as “lucid waters and lush mountains.” Those words were removed from the final document — but the Chinese concept of “ecological civilization” remained.

es/aw (Reuters, dpa)

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