November 7, 2022
BEIJING – Maintaining a fine balance between human habitats and the biophysical environment is of critical significance to meeting many of the existential challenges facing humanity. So even the escalating geopolitical tensions haven’t prevented countries from trying to collaborate to address environmental and climate concerns. Despite its latest definition of China as a “pacing competitor” and de facto moves to decouple with it in such realms as high technologies, the Joe Biden administration of the United States has always kept climate change on its list of areas where it seeks to cooperate with Beijing.
Although there have always been those refusing to acknowledge climate change’s negative impacts, the consequences are too conspicuous and devastating to ignore. There is no way out unless countries wake up to what is happening and join hands to deal with it. President Xi Jinping’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP 14) on Saturday sent the inspiring message that China will not only continue its recent campaign for environmental wellness, but is ready to assume a more proactive role in international cooperation.
In a speech delivered via video link, as the meeting is being held in a hybrid manner in China’s Wuhan and Geneva, Switzerland, the Chinese leader called for including more wetlands in nature reserves, improving the mechanisms and platforms for cooperation, and expanding wetlands of international significance. Reiterating China’s path to modernization highlights harmony between man and nature, he said China will build a number of national parks and incorporate 110 million hectares of wetlands into its national parks network, and roll out a major national wetland preservation program. He also vowed to promote international exchanges and cooperation, and announced the plan to set up an international mangrove center in Shenzhen.
Since joining the Ramsar Convention in 1992, China has made continuous and impressive progress in the protection of its wetlands. In addition to introducing a specific law to protect wetlands, the country has designated 64 wetlands of international importance, 602 wetland nature reserves and nearly 1,700 wetland parks. Just like the Convention, whose concerns have extended dramatically from the original waterfowl habitats to those of migratory birds, the Chinese awareness of environmental wellness has also broadened considerably over the past decades.
Wuhan is a fitting venue for such a meeting both because it is a major city on the Yangtze with wetlands accounting for 18.9 percent of its territory, but, more importantly, because it pioneered the country’s legislative efforts for wetland protection. Since 2010, the city has promulgated local legislations respectively on wetland reserves, lakes and corresponding areas for protection.