Foreign supporters say the move will put China at the forefront of global efforts to reverse habitat and species decline
China has unveiled its most ambitious conservation plan in a generation, ahead of the opening of a crucial U.N. biodiversity conference.
Foreign supporters say the move will put China at the forefront of global efforts to reverse habitat and species decline. But critics have warned that the good intentions, as with many of the proposals that will arise at the U.N. meeting in Nagoya, Japan, are likely to be outweighed by economic interests.
They also allege the plans are so domestically focused they will do little to halt the over-consumption and illegal trade of scarce species.
China’s biodiversity action plan designates 52 priority conservation areas, covering 23% of the country; it promises state funds for protection; and sets a target of controlling biodiversity loss by 2020.
Sichuan has been the first province to put the plan into action. It has set aside about 930m yuan and identified five ecological protection areas: one links to existing giant panda reserves, another restores an area damaged by industry, two conserve semi-tropical flora and fauna, and another offsets the impact of dams. The national plan, which builds on China’s existing 2,500 nature reserves, has been praised by foreign conservationists.
“These are solid commitments. If China can implement this plan systematically, then they will be managing better than any other country,” said Matthew Durnin, lead scientist in north Asia for the U.S. group Nature Conservancy.
Ouyang Zhiyun, vice president of the Ecological Society of China, said moves were also afoot to revise wildlife protection laws and ramp up “ecological transfer funds” that reward counties for safeguarding areas that sequester carbon, conserve soil and biodiversity. This year the government has budgeted 30bn yuan for such environmental service payments, up from 12bn yuan last year.
But some conservationists have warned that poor enforcement often undermines such initiatives. “Sometimes the laws are not well implemented so the destruction ... goes unpunished,” said Yan Xie, of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The 10th conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity, lasting two weeks, will try to set targets for biodiversity protection and establish rules on sustainable and fairly shared genetic resources. But, noting the failure to meet the goals it set 10 years ago, some critics doubt the effectiveness of its voluntary actions. —
© Guardian News & Media 2010
Keywords: U.N. biodiversity conference