Together to protect biodiversity

Black-necked cranes gather at the Dashanbao Black-necked Crane National Nature Reserve in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, January 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

Humanity has only one home: Earth. But it is not exclusively ours. We share our beautiful planet – this magnificent blue marble – with millions of other species and our existence is closely linked to theirs. For the sake of all living beings, we must ensure a healthy and prosperous planet.

This simple but important truth is reflected in the theme of this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity: “Building a Shared Future for All Life” (共建地球生命共同体). This theme couldn’t be more compelling because right now we are failing Mother Earth.

The planet is at a breaking point. With 75% of its land surface and 2/3 of its oceans now affected by humans, environmental disturbances are intensifying at an unprecedented rate. It is estimated that 200 species are disappearing every day, 1/5 of all nations could see ecosystems collapse due to the destruction of wildlife habitats and carbon emissions are higher than ever.

If the world is to sustain future generations, we fundamentally need to mend our broken relationship with nature.

To that end, in the first part of the COP15 summit of the Convention on Biological Diversity, we saw important milestones being reached. The international community came together to sign the Kunming Declaration, agreeing to integrated actions for the protection of biodiversity around the world. China also announced the establishment of the RMB 1.5 billion ($2.24 million) Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support conservation efforts in developing countries, which UNDP, in collaboration with UNEP , looks forward to offering support to operationalize.

However, to truly save nature for the future, we need to see bigger and faster changes. In particular, there are several areas where advancing progress will be critical:

First, we must continue to strengthen the synergies between how we approach biodiversity protection and climate change. The ecosystems that climate change destroys not only provide habitats for wildlife, but also absorb greenhouse gases as carbon sinks. In fact, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) found that between 2001 and 2010, the annual carbon sequestration of terrestrial ecosystems was equivalent to offsetting 14.1% of China’s fossil fuel emissions. It will therefore be essential to address these interrelated challenges together.

Second, biodiversity funding must be increased and expanded. We need US$824 billion every year to maintain biodiversity. However, the world currently spends only US$142 billion on biodiversity conservation, or just over 0.1% of total global GDP. This is largely insufficient. We have a gap of almost 700 billion US dollars for the foundation of everything we appreciate.

It is compounded by the fact that governments spend nearly $500 billion a year on investments that harmbiodiversity, including agricultural subsidies.

UNDP’s Global Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) aims to multiply resources for conservation efforts and improve their effectiveness. Its launch in China will help galvanize public and private partners to increase funding for nature-friendly investments.

Third, private sector engagement in environmental protection is crucial. Without private investment, the funding gap to support biodiversity will be much harder to close. But contributions from the corporate sector must go beyondjust CSR and philanthropy. Sustainability must be placed at the heart of business strategies, so that each stage of value chains is one that our world can support. And for companies, it’s not just about having a moral responsibility. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that a new nature-friendly economy could generate up to US$10.1 trillionin annual trade value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

Finally, with the second part of the COP15 biodiversity summit to be held later this year, it is an opportunity to recognize the importance of international cooperation. The need to conserve biodiversity and ensure a healthy environment is a global challenge that does not stop at borders. Countries must work together if humanity is to succeed in protecting the planet. Achieving consensus on the adoption of an ambitious, specific and measurable post-2020 global biodiversity framework, backed by the necessary funding, will represent international recognition of this fact and is therefore of vital and urgent importance.

By working together, countries can create a world where humanity and nature not only coexist, but also thrive.

The author is the UNDP Resident Representative in China.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and the China Daily website.

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