The UN biodiversity summit in Kunming, China is underway in a context of extreme pressure on ecosystems across our planet. According to a WWF International report in 2018, there has been a 60% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. Today one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.
The meeting will discuss how to halt that decline, promote conservation, restore damaged ecosystems and create what's known as a 'nature positive' economy.
To mark the first chapter in the two-part COP15 biodiversity summit, Euronews and CGTN (China Global Television Network) together with leading experts and analysts, debated the latest efforts to protect nature worldwide.
China hosts COP15
China, as one of the 17 recognized 'megadiverse' countries in the world, has elevated biodiversity conservation to being part of its official national plan, while the European Union has also stepped up by placing a biodiversity strategy at the core of its flagship Green Deal.
"COP15 is one critical moment for China," said Li Lin, Director of Global Policy and Advocacy at WWF International.
"To play that host country role, to unite the different views in the world, trying to bridge the differences and its concerns, so that we can really have the global diversity framework agreed next year in Kunming. That could be transformational and could be ambitious, and still deliver the conservation that we all need."
Funding for biodiversity
In his keynote speech, China's President Xi Jinping announced that he is establishing a Biodiversity Fund. He committed around €200 million (1.5 billion RNB) to establish a Kunming Biodiversity Fund and also welcomed other countries to join.
The gesture is welcome, as the 20 Aichi conservation targets agreed in Japan in 2010 were not met largely because of a lack of funding and political will.
Ma Jun, Director of China's Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the panel, "We put all these ambitious targets on paper. But they are not supported by legislation to government policy, and then also the money, the investment, has not come."
"Despite all the efforts made by the international community, we haven't seen the turning point on biodiversity", he said.
The impact of COVID-19
Some argue that the events of recent years have led to a shift in attitudes to biodiversity. Recognition of our association with our natural surroundings has increased after the many global lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meriem Bouamrane, Head of Political and Research Section on Ecology and Biodiversity, UNESCO said "There is an unprecedented awareness about our interdependence with nature and the ecosystems and biodiversity with that crisis."
"So it's important that this focus remains the same until there is this agreement that is going to be signed in Kunming next year"
She argues that the consumer environment is shifting and that biodiversity is now part of people's decision-making in everyday purchases.
"If people are more aware of the choices they have, they can select what they buy, what they consume, that they know whether the consequences of their choices are having a positive impact on biodiversity or not," added Bouamrane.
The cost of nature in pricing
So should the cost of nature be put into the price of our products? With much discussion of how carbon dioxide emissions can be 'priced into' goods and services, perhaps the same should be done with the cost to nature and biodiversity.
"In the end, this will lead to conditions where, for example, organically grown food is much cheaper than the conventional land because it will account for all the costs," argued Josef Settele, Professor of Ecology, IPBES and Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
"So I think we need to use economic arguments, but we should not really fall in the pitfall of pricing single species, for example, which downgrades them to something which is tradeable, which is not the case," Settele concluded.
To watch to the full debate, please click on the player icon above.