Cooperation will be crucial in protecting the planet

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: May 27, 2022

Humanity has only one home - the Earth. But it isn't ours exclusively. We share our beautiful planet - this stunning blue marble - with millions of other species, and our existence is intertwined with theirs. For the sake of all living things, we must ensure a healthy and thriving planet.

This simple yet important truth is reflected in this year's International Day for Biological Diversity theme: "building a shared future for all life". This theme could not be more compelling, because currently we are failing our Mother Earth.

The planet is at a breaking point. With 75 percent of the Earth's land, and two-thirds of its oceans, now affected by humans, environmental disruption is escalating at an unprecedented rate. An estimated 150 to 200 species are going extinct each day, and one-fifth of all nations could see ecosystems collapse due to destruction of wildlife habitats. In addition, carbon emissions are higher than ever.

If the world is to sustain future generations, we must fundamentally fix our broken relationship with nature.

To this end, at part one of the COP15 summit of the Convention on Biological Diversity, we saw some important steps being made. The international community came together to sign the Kunming Declaration, agreeing to integrated actions for the protection of biodiversity around the world. China also announced the establishment of the 1.5 billion yuan ($223 million) Kunming Biodiversity Fund to support conservation efforts in developing countries, and the United Nations Development Programme and UN Environment Programme look forward to offering support in its operation.

However, to truly safeguard nature for the future, we need to see more wide-ranging and rapid change. In particular, there are several areas where it will be critical to advance progress.

First, we must continue to strengthen the synergies between how we address biodiversity protection and climate change. The ecosystems that climate change is destroying not only provide habitats for wildlife, but also absorb greenhouse gases as carbon sinks.

In fact, the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that from 2001 to 2010, annual carbon sequestration of terrestrial ecosystems was equal to offsetting 14.1 percent of China's fossil fuel emissions. Thus, it will be critical to tackle these interrelated challenges together.

Second, biodiversity financing must be increased and expanded. We need $824 billion every year to sustain biodiversity. However, the world currently spends only $142 billion on biodiversity conservation, just over 0.1 percent of total global GDP. This is grossly inadequate. We have an almost $700 billion gap for the foundation of everything we value.

It is made worse by the fact that governments spend nearly $500 billion a year on investments that harm biodiversity, particularly agricultural subsidies.

The UNDP's global Biodiversity Finance Initiative works to multiply resources for conservation efforts and improve their effectiveness. Its launch in China will help to galvanize public and private partners to increase financing for nature-positive investments.

Third, private sector engagement in environmental protection is crucial. Without private investment, the funding gap to sustain biodiversity will be much more difficult to close. But contributions from the business sector must go beyond just corporate social responsibility and philanthropy. Sustainability has to be put at the core of business strategies, so that every stage of value chains is one that can be sustained.

For companies, this isn't just about having a moral responsibility. The World Economic Forum estimates that a new nature-positive economy could generate up to $10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

Finally, with part two of the COP15 biodiversity summit to be held later this year, it is an opportunity to recognize the importance of international cooperation. The need to conserve biodiversity and ensure a healthy environment is a global challenge that does not stop at borders.

Countries must work together if humanity is to succeed in protecting the planet. Reaching consensus on the adoption of an ambitious, specific and measurable post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework underpinned by the necessary financing will represent international recognition of this fact and is thus vitally important and urgent.

Working together, countries can create a world where humanity and nature do not just coexist, but also flourish.

The author is the United Nations Development Programme's resident representative in China.