From 9 to 16 May 2011, twenty-one countries from East, South and Southeast Asia met in Xi’an, China, to plan for future actions to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011-2020), one of the most important Nagoya Outcomes. The workshop aimed to help countries develop national targets and update their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) to address their respective biodiversity challenges, thus contributing to achievements of the global targets in 2020.
This workshop was organized in a region that is facing tremendous biodiversity challenges resulting from the effects of rapid economic growth in recent years. This growth is partly attributed to the ecosystem services and endowments as provided by Mother Nature. Indeed, this region is one of the richest in the world for biodiversity, as well as being one that is economically vibrant. In this context, this region has a more urgent need than any other region to address threats, both direct and indirect, to biodiversity. The failure to address these threats may impact the future well-being of this region and others around the world.
Recognizing the need to integrate biodiversity into countries’ plans for economic and social development and for poverty reduction, the workshop brought together not only government officials responsible for national biodiversity strategies, but also experts from planning commissions and ministries of finance and planning. Participants analyzed national planning cycles and identified entry points for integrating the biodiversity targets. The workshop also included a special session on how tools for the economic valuation of biodiversity and a mechanism, such as payment for ecosystem services, can help to protect biodiversity.
To meet the new biodiversity challenges stemming from its rapid economic growth over the years, China launched its updated and revised national biodiversity strategy and action plan in 2010-the International Year of Biodiversity. The new NBSAP contains goals for 2015, 2020 and 2030, with eight strategic objectives, 10 priority areas and 30 priority actions designed to achieve these goals. The Strategy also identifies 35 priority areas for conservation and proposes 35 priority projects for implementation in the next two decades.
To celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity and promote the implementation of the new NBSAP, China has established a High-level National Committee for Biodiversity headed by Vice Premier Li Keqiang and involving all relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral departments and institutions. China is considering having such a permanent body for the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity, which was recommended by the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010.
2011 is the first year of China’s 12th five-year plan for social and economic development which recognizes that long term development depends on protecting the environment. Included in this important plan are many important environmental and biodiversity targets. Among them, by 2015, China’s forest coverage will be increased to 21.6% of its total land area. This plan also includes important ecological restoration programmes and projects in ecologically important areas, such as those in the source areas of the Yangtse and Yellow Rivers and provinces such as Yunan and Sichuan. Taking advantage of sectoral and cross-sectoral and local planning for the next five years, the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China has been promoting integration of biodiversity into their respective plans and programmes.
Looking ahead, this UN Decade provides a unique opportunity for all countries to address biodiversity challenges. We cannot afford to lose biodiversity any more as we are reaching tipping points for some components of biodiversity, as demonstrated in the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook. This regional workshop provided important knowledge and ways and means needed to plan for the future and meet challenges ahead. The venue of the workshop-Xi’an, a city with rich historical heritages and currently hosting the 2011 International Horticultural Expo, whose theme is cities and biodiversity living in harmony, helps remind us of our responsibilities to act now for the future