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Shielding ecological security

Zhou Shengxia
Minister, Ministry of Environmental Protection, People’s Republic of China

The eco-system consisting of air, ocean, lakes, land, grassland and forest nourishes the Earth — our warm and beautiful home — and provides such services as climate regulation, water conservation, sources of food and medicine and natural landscapes. It is an irreplaceable and significant basis for the subsistence and multiplication of mankind.

Rapid social and economic development, especially since the 20th century, has made the impact of the human activities on the eco-system more damaging than ever. Its functions have been rapidly degrading and the conflict between man and nature has been increasingly sharpened. People worldwide were awakened to this by the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. Then the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, reached extensive consensus on sustainable development. Now the concept of balanced development among economy, society and environment has sunk deep into our hearts and has become a development strategy of many countries.

The Chinese government developed “ten measures for environment and development” two months after the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. In this new century, it put forward a scientific outlook on development characterized as people-oriented, coordinated and sustainable. It makes great efforts to promote ecological civilization, strives to build a resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly society, and pursues a refined development road that leads to economic growth, prosperous life and good eco-systems.

Remarkable progress has been made. The government has promulgated more than 20 laws and regulations to protect the environment and natural resources, such as the Environmental Protection Law, the Forest Law, the Grassland Law, and the Law on Marine Environmental Protection. China has also set mandatory targets for cutting emissions of the main pollutants in its national plan for economic and social development. Pollution prevention and control programs in key river basins and regions have been continued and a number of other schemes, such as projects for conserving natural forests and programmes for returning farm land to nature (forest/grassland/wetland/ lake), have also been implemented. China has ratified such international conventions, as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and has carried out extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

As one of the world’s richest countries for biodiversity, China boasts a variety of terrestrial and marine eco-systems and hosts the biggest total number of species in the northern hemisphere. By the end of 2010, it had 2,588 protected areas, accounting for 14.9 per cent of its land territory: these safeguard 85 per cent of terrestrial eco-systems, 40 per cent of natural wetlands, 85 per cent of wild fauna and flora and 65 per cent of wild flora habitats. However, China’s ecology remains fragile. 90 per cent of its 393 million hectares of grasslands are degraded to some degree, while 27.5 per cent of its land territories are subject to desertification. The country still faces daunting challenges in protecting its natural environment.

Looking ahead, the Chinese government will implement the scientific outlook on development, accelerate the transformation of the modes of economic development, uplift the level of ecological civilization, and explore a new path for environmental protection that features low cost, good returns, low emissions and sustainability. The government will make every effort to strike a balance between environmental protection and economic development — resolving the prominent environmental problems hampering balanced development and damaging public health — and to do a good job in cutting pollution. It will implement the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030), the Regional Plan on Ecological Construction and Environmental Protection on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and other ecological conservation plans for specific key regions. The key ecosystem of rivers and lakes will also be rehabilitated. All these actions aim to build a shield for ecological security, to help protect the earth, and to build a harmonious world.

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