China pledges 'new chapter of ecological conservation' in preliminary biodiversity talks
Andrew Wilson


It's called the Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity and its 15th session, known as COP15 for short, would have happened this week in the Chinese city of Kunming – but for the coronavirus.

Instead, in the lead-up to the rescheduled event next year, a series of working groups and pre-meets have taken place, with the latest in Westminster.

Those in attendance included United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity executive secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith, his South African counterpart Barbara Creecy and the Global Environment Facility CEO Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. 




Chinese ecology minister Huang Runqiu delivered a pre-recoded message, as did Alok Sharma – the UK business secretary who will lead the COP26 talks to be held in Glasgow a year later than planned, in November 2021.

There was an opening address by Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, who embraced what he called "a new chapter of ecological conservation."

His message was a positive one: to establish China as the host for the conference and to assume the leadership role granted by the host status in the city of Kunming.

He listed three determinations on the part of China: the determination to promote ecological conservation, the determination to protect biodiversity, and the determination to take part and take the lead in global diversity governance.

"In China, 90 percent of terrestrial ecosystem types and 85 percent of key wild animal populations are under effective protection," he said.


An end to broken intentions

Maruma Mrema and Creecy, both veterans of the international ecological movement, each made heartfelt appeals for delegates and governments to act this year following decades of inactivity and broken intentions.

To date, no country in the world has lived up to stated targets either on biodiversity or greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK also took a host role in the webinar and established an informal partnership with China as the UK will host, with Italy, the COP 26 talks on climate change in Glasgow in November 2021.

Goldsmith stressed the need for countries to step up and make a difference to the challenges of environmental degradation while there is still time – and the science suggests there is very little of that left.

There has been much anticipation of China's proposed carbon trading scheme following the example established by the European Union, but that continues to be pushed back – perhaps as far as 2025. There was, however, an announcement that an early single-sector stage of this might be trialed in 2021.