Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of a 1.5-billion yuan ($232m) fund on Tuesday to support biodiversity protection in developing countries, as talks continue on a new post-2020 global pact to tackle species loss.

Xi was virtually addressing the Cop15 biodiversity conference in Kunming, China, where diplomats, scientists and conservationists are meeting to lay the groundwork for a global agreement to halt and reverse the destruction of nature, set to be finalised in May 2022.

“Developing countries need help and support, and solidarity must be strengthened to allow developing countries to benefit in a fairer way,” Xi said.

Li Shuo, senior climate adviser at Greenpeace China, said the new fund “should jump-start an urgently needed conversation on biodiversity finance”.

“Cop15 needs to see donor countries from the developed world contributing in this regard,” he said.

Experts have said it will take an estimated $1-trillion a year to build sustainable supply chains and help countries protect nature in other ways, which is far more than the $150bn spent on such action in 2019.

Xi said China’s contribution to the Kunming Biodiversity Fund would start at 1.5-billion yuan and that it would also welcome contributions from other parties.

He also announced a new national park scheme that would bring a land area of 230,000km² under stronger state protection.

The parks — which cover China’s panda, tiger and leopard habitats, as well as key nature reserves near the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Mekong rivers in the northwest — are home to nearly 30% of the key terrestrial wildlife species found in the country, Xi said.

China has identified funding as a key roadblock in efforts to meet ambitious climate and biodiversity targets.

Environment vice-minister Zhao Yingmin told reporters last week that particular attention needed to be paid to the transfer of funds, technology and talent to developing countries if the new biodiversity deal is to succeed.

But experts say new sources of funding are only part of the solution, noting that China’s efforts to conserve biodiversity at home have not been matched by efforts to clean up its global supply chains or embark on sustainable investments overseas.

“While China is taking control of its domestic footprint that has led to an increased footprint overseas in terms of things like soy, and if that continues, then those countries cannot maintain biodiversity,” said Alice Hughes, a conservation biologist and delegation head with the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, a Beijing-based non-government group.

“If countries want to be leaders they need to take responsibility for their footprint overseas,” she said. “That includes finance, it includes overseas development and it includes imports.”

Reuters

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