March 2023, 3, marks the 21th World Forest Day. With the concept of ecological priority and green development taking root in the hearts of the people, China's achievements in environmental protection have become increasingly apparent: the forest area is 11 million hectares, and the forest coverage rate reaches 2.31%, contributing about 24/02 of the new green area to the world, becoming the fastest growing country in the world.

At the same time, China has also made remarkable progress in biodiversity conservation. According to the Catalogue of Biological Species of China published in May 2022, more than 5 endangered species of wild animals and plants in China have recovered growth. The wild populations of giant pandas and Tibetan antelopes increased significantly, and the threat level was downgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable". The total number of elk that once disappeared from the wild exceeded 300,8000.

Data map: Tibetan antelope herd on the shore of Lake Naquserincho, Tibet. Photo by Jiang Feibo

Internationally, we see that in December 2022, NASA released a new "Blue Marble" photograph of the Earth showing significant changes in many places compared to 12 years ago, with the Antarctic ice sheet and dark green vegetation in tropical Africa largely reduced, once green Madagascar turning brown, and many species on the verge of extinction.

To safeguard ecological security barriers and protect biodiversity, how should countries strengthen cooperation and jointly respond? What lessons does China have that the world can learn from?

In this regard, China News Agency East-West Dialogue invited Prof. Shahbaz Khan, Representative of UNESCO in China, and Zhou Jinfeng, Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, to have dialogue.

Xia Zehan said that China has unique experience in the construction of ecological civilization. It combines tradition with modernity and also brings philosophical reflections. In terms of the concept of ecological civilization, China can be called a leader.

Zhou Jinfeng believes that China has written "ecological civilization" into the constitution, built a series of methodologies for the construction of ecological civilization, and formed a broad consensus. China is a leader in the world in terms of people's understanding of biodiversity.

Excerpts from the conversation are as follows:

conservation of biodiversity,

The world needs to come together

China News Agency: Who should play a leading role in stopping biodiversity loss?

Zhou Jinfeng: This is a rare challenge in the history of mankind and even the earth, and all parties must participate. Governments have a leading role, but the participation of society, businesses and individuals is also indispensable. International organizations, all sectors of society, and the people must participate and actively make changes.

Shazehan: All countries, all people, from individuals to counties, cities, provinces, central governments, and even governments, must work together to meet the challenge. All issues are interconnected, so we need to be united more than ever. Biodiversity conservation cannot be achieved by scientists and governments alone, and enterprises and individuals need to work together.

China News Agency: Protecting biodiversity requires the joint efforts of the whole world, how should countries strengthen cooperation?

Zhou Jinfeng: First, strengthen policy coordination, including based on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Second, promote information sharing. Some species are migratory, such as the Beijing swift. When Beijing enters winter, it will fly to South Africa. Migratory species and invasive alien species, such as the desert locust in Asia and Africa, are both agricultural disasters and biodiversity issues, and require collaboration between countries in terms of satellite data, ground data, technology and other aspects to do the work well.

Third, promote technology diffusion. Technical exchange between different countries is essential for global biodiversity conservation.

Xia Zehan: We want to bring people together to discuss this issue, for example, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming and the high-level meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal.

What UNESCO is doing is building networks, in particular the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, World Heritage and Natural Heritage Sites, and Global Geoparks.

Through the Global Geoparks and Geodiversity Network, mayors from these regions, political leaders of biodiversity-related networks, and leaders at local, provincial and national levels lead diverse groups such as local scientists and people, especially young people, to empower them and lead them to join these conservation actions.

In February 2004, Wulingyuan Natural Scenic Area, composed of three scenic spots, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxiyu Scenic Area and Tianzi Mountain Scenic Area, was listed in the first batch of Global Geoparks in the world. The picture shows the mountains of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (data map). Source: Visual China

conservation of biodiversity,

China's solution provides inspiration to the world

China News Agency: China has elevated biodiversity conservation to a national strategy and embarked on a path with Chinese characteristics in the construction of ecological civilization.

Zhou Jinfeng: The first is the enhancement and unification of understanding. China has enshrined ecological civilisation in its constitution, and under its guidance, we have systematically adjusted a series of regulations. The second is to form a broad consensus. Objectively speaking, China is absolutely leading the world in terms of people's understanding of biodiversity. The third is a series of methodologies built to adhere to ecological civilization, the core of which is "green water and green mountains are gold and silver mountains", which actually emphasizes the protection of nature and biodiversity.

Xia Zehan: China has a unique experience in the construction of ecological civilization, and I think it combines tradition with modernity, and it also brings philosophical thinking. Ecological civilization is a very important concept advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ecology and civilization go hand in hand, and if we consider only one of them, we will never make progress. However, the essence of merging the two into one, so that people and the planet can coexist in harmony, is the essence.

The concept of ecological civilization can be combined with global standards such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, and importantly, the concept of ecological civilization is integrated with Chinese characteristics on the basis of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In terms of the concept of ecological civilization, China is a leader.

China News Agency: Economic development cannot come at the expense of the natural environment, what experience do you think countries have that we should learn from in this regard?

Zhou Jinfeng: While ensuring economic development, we must also protect biodiversity, and there are three important tools, namely, awareness-raising, legal norms, and people's participation.

For example, State Grid organizes volunteers to patrol the entire network to minimize its negative impact on the ecology and ensure economic development. In addition, the environmental public interest litigation system is a great initiative in China, since 2015, we alone have filed a series of litigation cases, so that a number of economic development projects have been adjusted, so that they can respect the environment, protect the environment and protect biodiversity while developing the economy.

The picture shows the hunting falcon inhabiting the "Bird of Life's Nest" in Longbao, Yushu, Qinghai. Photo by Luo Yunpeng

Protecting the ecological environment,

Technology is needed

China News Agency: How can we better protect the ecological environment through scientific and technological empowerment and technological innovation?

Zhou Jinfeng: Science and technology is a tool, it is not good or bad, we must be guided by the idea of ecological civilization, and fully consider the sustainable development of human beings, that is, the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. Under the guidance of the idea of ecological civilization, the comprehensive development of science and technology is the most important tool for us to solve the current crisis.

Xia Zehan: From a technological point of view, many products have caused ecological harm, and this harm continues. But technology also has a positive side. We have experienced the fourth industrial revolution, and now we are transitioning from Industry 4.0 to 5.0, working on greener technologies, better Internet of Things, better use of artificial intelligence, blockchain, satellites and other technologies.

With these technologies, we can understand when, where and what is happening. With satellites, better computing power, better data mining with artificial intelligence, and with IoT connectivity to sensors, we're able to understand what's going on, and now we're deploying those devices.