(East-West Question) Tang Rui: How do you view China's protection of biodiversity?

  China News Agency, Beijing, March 15th: Tang Rui: How do you view China's protection of biodiversity?

  Author Chai Jingbo

  As one of the countries with the richest biodiversity in the world, since China signed the "Convention on Biological Diversity" in 1992, China has developed and explored in conservation, and has embarked on a path of biodiversity conservation with "Chinese wisdom" .

British environmentalist Terry Townshend said in an exclusive interview with China News Agency's "Dongxiwen" recently that China's protection of biodiversity over the past few decades is not only reflected in the protection of a certain species, but also in the complete ecosystem. The maintenance and balance of the economy realizes the compatible symbiosis between the rapid economic development and the protection of the natural environment.

The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

China News Service reporter: What was your original intention for starting birding Beijing in China 12 years ago?

As an environmentalist, what do you think is biodiversity?

Tang Rui:

I have always been devoted to environmental protection issues. Initially, "Beijing Bird Watching Network" was just a personal travel journal, and I recorded what I saw and heard in China.

Later, more and more people came to Beijing after browsing the website, so I decided to make it a "business card" for getting to know the wild animals in Beijing.

  In the past, many people in the world had the impression of Beijing as "pollution".

But in fact, there are more than 500 species of wild birds in Beijing.

According to the survey, Beijing has the second highest bird population among the G20 capitals, after Brasilia.

What is even more surprising is that there are nearly 600 species of wild animals in Beijing, which are like pearls in the crown.

By establishing the Beijing Bird Watching Network, people's awareness of Beijing's biodiversity can be raised, because the first step in conservation is understanding.

  Biodiversity is an ecosystem composed of animals, plants, etc. If any link is missing, it will lead to ecological imbalance.

Globally, vertebrate populations have declined by an average of 68 percent over the past 50 years.

If we continue down this path, we will face the loss of 30 to 50 percent of species by the mid-21st century, threatening economies and public health, and posing enormous risks to human well-being.

As a species in nature, while shaping the world with powerful capabilities, human beings must also shoulder important responsibilities.

A photo of the white-bellied thrush taken by Tang Rui in Beijing.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

China News Agency reporter: In the 12 years in China, you have visited all parts of China, which place has left a deep impression on you?

In terms of biodiversity, what are the new changes in China?

Tang Rui:

When I first arrived in China in 2010, I started traveling around.

I went to Northeast China and it was full of birds singing.

In Beijing, it is a bird watching paradise, and the number of migratory birds is unprecedented in the UK and Europe.

The mountains in Qinghai are particularly beautiful, where top predators such as snow leopards, wolves, and brown bears are found.

I was blown away by the number of birds in Inner Mongolia, the birds chirping like an orchestra at dawn.

In Sichuan, I saw the world-unique black-throated scallops, red-throated flycatchers, and pandas.

I have also been to Xinjiang, which has the most abundant biological resources.

China has mountains, rivers, amazing forests and caves, all of which impress me.

  For more than ten years, I have witnessed many changes in China.

For example, China's east coast is the only stopover for many migratory birds, and during the period of rapid development, China's policy to protect the habitat of migratory birds in the Yellow (Bo) Sea is very strong.

In addition, in recent years, China has continued to strengthen the construction of relevant laws such as the Environmental Protection Law and the Wildlife Protection Law.

China's ecological civilization thought is essentially an understanding of environmental health and economic health.

Humans still have a long way to go. Biodiversity protection cannot rely on China alone. All countries in the world must make efforts in this direction.

In the Keyouzhong Banner of Inner Mongolia, Siberian swans migrate here in spring and autumn every year.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Sudan

China News Service: China is one of the countries with the richest biodiversity in the world, not only with rare birds, but also with abundant wildlife resources.

What role do you think China has played in protecting biodiversity?

Tang Rui:

In the past 20 years, China's awareness and understanding of environmental protection has improved tremendously.

The only way to slow and stop the loss of global biodiversity is to ensure enough attention, so now many organizations and individuals in China are starting to focus on protecting species or regions.

  For example, some organizations in Yunnan focus on the protection of gibbons, there are organizations in Jiangsu specializing in wetland protection for "one of the eight bird migration routes in the world", and the Qinghai-Tibet ecological protection project that I personally participated in.

In 2021, Kunming, China will also host the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (“COP15”).

China's protection of biodiversity is not only reflected in the protection of a certain species, but also in the maintenance and balance of the complete ecosystem. As early as a few years ago, China has begun to set its sights on the world.

Yunnan Pu'er Sun River National Park conducted a background survey on 57 species of wild animals under national key protection in the area.

The picture shows the staff are measuring the decibel of the call of the white-browed gibbon.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Liu Ranyang

China News Agency reporter: The "Big Cat Valley" project jointly initiated by you and the Shanshui Nature Conservation Center of Peking University has provided practical help for the economic development and animal protection of Yushu in Qinghai.

How is the core view of "responding to funding gaps and government policy coordination" in biodiversity conservation reflected in this project?

Tang Rui:

When I first came to Qinghai, I found that the people here are happy and rich in body and mind.

They are environmentalists themselves, and I just found a way to encourage them.

On the one hand, we coordinate with the local government to welcome tourists from all over the world to Qinghai. The food and lodging are in the homes of the local residents. The residents lead the tourists to watch the scenic spots and wild animals and plants. and get paid accordingly.

In these ways, local residents have more income, are proud of where they live, and realize the value of protecting nature.

Western China and other relatively poor regions can also learn from this model.

  At this stage, there is a large funding gap for biodiversity conservation, with an annual global funding gap of more than US$700 billion.

Closing the funding gap will largely depend on government policies such as reforming harmful subsidies (agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors), reducing investment risks, and supporting capital investment.

At the same time, enterprises can also play a key role in natural infrastructure and green financial products.

  Biodiversity protection is like an "insurance policy" in people's daily life. When human beings face biological risks, economic risks and epidemic risks, financial support for nature protection is a kind of insurance.

In the source of the Lancang River in Zaduo County, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai, herdsmen earn income by providing guides, accommodation and other services for nature observation enthusiasts, witnessing ecological dividends in ecological protection.

The picture shows a group photo of nature observation enthusiasts and herdsmen at the 2018 Angsai International Nature Observation Festival.

Photo by Luo Yunpeng issued by China News Agency

China News Agency reporter: What is the reason why the Convention on Biological Diversity has not been implemented in place since it was adopted in 1992?

As the presidency of COP15 and the largest developing country, what experiences and inspirations can China provide to the world in biodiversity conservation?

Tang Rui:

Including the government and ordinary people, the awareness of biodiversity risks is not enough.

Biodiversity protection requires sufficient attention and policy support from leaders of various countries on the one hand, and sufficient financial support on the other hand.

In fact, given that the world is in a moment of global biodiversity crisis, investing in nature is very rewarding.

  COP15 in Kunming, China in 2021 is important.

The Chinese government has issued policy documents to support biodiversity conservation mechanisms, strengthened supervision and financial support, and encouraged enterprises to invest in and protect biodiversity.

However, biodiversity conservation cannot rely on the efforts of China alone. As the host of the conference and the largest developing country, China has brought together many countries and international organizations, so that the world has reached a common agreement.

In recent years, China has elevated the construction of ecological civilization to a national strategy, and has continuously improved its investment in environmental legislation and related scientific research projects, which is a manifestation of a responsible power.

COP15 Seed Wall on display at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, Yunnan, in 2021.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Cui Nan

China News Service: In recent years, China has incorporated ecological management into its national laws and policy systems and key development plans.

As an ecological consultant for the governments of Beijing and Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, what role do you think these measures have played?

Tang Rui:

Chinese leaders have put forward the idea of ​​ecological civilization and made more scientific and professional actions in legislation. I think China has found a balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

Countries such as China and Costa Rica have many good examples and experiences. It is very important for other countries to actively learn from experiences and replicate them as much as possible.

China News Agency reporter: You once said in your article that "biodiversity loss will bring risks to human prosperity and well-being, and a comprehensive effort must be carried out on a global scale to assess, protect and restore nature", how to understand this sentence ?

Tang Rui:

Human beings are a part of nature. If we destroy other species around our lives, we are essentially destroying the "life network" of human beings.

The public health problems and economic and social risks arising from biodiversity loss are immeasurable.

On the positive side, I think the awareness of biodiversity conservation comes from the government and the people, that is, people are more and more aware of the importance of the environment and nature.

China News Service reporter: How to encourage the younger generation to have a deeper understanding of biodiversity conservation and take more responsibility in the future?

How to pass on the concept of "protecting biodiversity" from generation to generation?

Tang Rui:

I saw a particularly beautiful bird in the garden when I was 4 years old. When my parents knew about it, they bought me a book about birds.

I was very interested in nature when I was a child, and when I grew up, I did research and work related to it.

  A British professor suggested that the education of biodiversity conservation should be advanced as early as possible. I also think that children are innately curious about nature. We have a responsibility to let the younger generation connect with nature from an early age, and tell them through stories. Describe the migration and change of species.

I believe there are more interesting stories waiting for people to discover, and I expect more young people to participate in projects and teams that study biodiversity.


Anhui children walk into nature to watch birds.

Photo by China News Agency, Ge Yinian

Interviewee Profile:

  Terry Townshend, a British environmentalist, holds a master's degree in environmental economics from the University of Essex, UK.

He has worked for Globe International and the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

He is currently the senior consultant of the Paulson Institute's ecological protection project, a member of BirdLife International's global advisory group, and the founder of the "Birding Beijing" website. He has been based in Beijing since 2010.