Environmental organizations are largely positive about the first results of the biodiversity conference in China. That’s quite remarkable. It is not uncommon in the past for politicians to pat each other on the back on climate and environmental issues, while observers voiced harsh criticism. Following the political statement adopted by the nearly 200 signatory states on Wednesday, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ruled that it demonstrates the will to halt biodiversity loss. The environmental rights organization Client Earth even spoke of ‘strong principles’ being adopted.
The United Nations conference in the southern Chinese city of Kunming was intended to send a signal that world governments are aware of the danger of species extinction. The destruction of nature has accelerated in recent decades, the World Biodiversity Council warns IPBES that up to a million animal and plant species could disappear. With unpredictable consequences for the interaction of nature. Scientists warn that species extinction could become an even bigger problem for humans than climate change.
Some government representatives, including German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, spoke in Kunming on Tuesday and Wednesday. She called for ambitious goals, the implementation of which should also be monitored nationally, so that they “do not remain empty promises”. The so-called Kunming Declaration now provides a direction, albeit a vague one. The details will be negotiated in April and May 2022 and should lead to a global agreement.
For Florian Titze, international biodiversity policy expert at WWF, it is important that the international community recognizes “that a wide range of measures is needed”. In addition to more protected areas and the recovery of devastated regions, economic and financial systems should also change. According to Elizabeth Mrema, secretary-general of the UN environment program UNEP, $500 billion annually in subsidies goes to nature-destroying projects worldwide. These cash flows should be diverted.
China is expanding its protected areas massively
It was eagerly anticipated how host country China would position itself. In a video address, President Xi Jinping announced a $200 million wildlife fund to help developing countries finance their environmental protection. In addition, China wants to designate more nature reserves, for example in the Yunnan province with its capital Kunming. As the local governor explained, this should protect the tropical rainforest and the few remaining elephants. “I believe China’s share of protected land and sea areas will be impressive,” said Dimitri de Boer, head of Client Earth’s Beijing office.
Whatever is at stake for Germany is currently being seen in the Baltic Sea. Years of overfishing, pollution and the effects of global warming have reduced fish stocks so drastically that on Tuesday the European Union had to cut its catch quota for cod and herring to zero. The EU biodiversity strategy already prescribes that 30 percent of the land and sea area must be protected by 2030. To this end, the use of fertilizers and pesticides is halved. However, the targets are not yet legally binding.