Interview: Upcoming COP15 in China "historic opportunity" to address ecological challenges, says WWF Int'l chief

2021-07-20 12:05:29 GMT2021-07-20 20:05:29(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Keli Sheng

GENEVA, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming United Nations (UN) biodiversity conference in China will be an "absolutely historic opportunity" to address ecological challenges, and a chance for China to "push for ambition towards a global deal for nature," Marco Lambertini, director-general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, has told Xinhua.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) is set to take place in October in the southern Chinese city of Kunming. The meeting will review the "post-2020 global biodiversity framework" to draw a blueprint for biodiversity conservation in the next 10 years.

Just like the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, which "rallied everybody around a clear vision about climate" with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the COP15 also "has the potential to develop a similar plan for nature," said Lambertini.

The COP15 will be a major UN environment conference hosted by China, where there has been an "exponential growth of awareness of commitment and of action," he said.

Lambertini highlighted that in 2017 and 2018, the Chinese government invested more than 260 billion yuan (40.08 billion U.S. dollars) annually in biodiversity, six times more than that in 2008, saying, "So clearly, the government is walking the talk."

The Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment announced in early July that populations of several endangered species, including the giant panda and the Siberian tiger, have increased significantly.

These achievements may partly be attributed to the growth of online crowdfunding platforms, such as WeChat and Alipay, which have enabled the public to help fund nature conservation efforts. For Lambertini, "this is brilliant. It's innovative, many countries should learn from that -- digital crowdsourcing is proving very effective."

Furthermore, the recent stories of wild Asian elephants wandering around villages and towns in southwest China's Yunnan Province have also been "amazing," Lambertini said.

"The tolerance that the population and the government have expressed and the respect for these animals have been impressive," he said, adding that these are "real indicators of real change happening on the ground and in society."

China's efforts in nature conservation have been underpinned by concepts such as "ecological civilization," which is "basically a sustainable development concept, but with an ethical and philosophical dimension attached to it," said Lambertini, who described this as "a wonderful concept" and a "brilliant way to explain where we need to go and what kind of society we need to become, a 'nature-positive' society."

China's "Green is Gold" concept "is also extremely inspirational from a conceptual perspective as it's basically saying that investing in nature is a good investment for everything, for a thriving economy, and for a healthy and happy humanity," he said, noting that these concepts have made "major contributions to the new global narrative on nature conservation, one where healthy nature is the foundation for a safe, prosperous and equitable society."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also elucidated the urgent need for biodiversity conservation, Lambertini said.

"The causes of these pandemics, including COVID-19, are really rooted in issues related to our relationship with nature," he said, adding that "more emphasis is needed on economic sectors, particularly agriculture, fishing, forestry, and infrastructure."

At COP15, WWF will be "calling for ambition, calling for urgency and clearly calling for a properly-structured action plan," as well as urging delegates to "embrace a Global Goal for Nature," which would commit governments and drive the entire society to be "nature-positive by 2030," Lambertini said. Enditem