China’s hosting of biodiversity summit is a big chance to show leadership on the world stage

China is for the first time due to host a major international biological diversity conference – and EIA is urging it to start tackling environmental crime and exploitation as a priority.

The 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was originally due to take place in Kunming last October, was postponed to this month due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now scheduled to take place from 11-24 October.

It will be the first time China has hosted such a high-level environmental summit, where decisions will be made which are intended to guide governments around the world in addressing the ongoing biodiversity crisis during the coming decade.

The CBD is a legally binding treaty to conserve biological diversity, including through the development of decade-long frameworks which are guided by multiple targets.

The framework for 2011-20 was broken down into the 20 key targets, which were meant to have been met by 2020 – but in a damning indictment of government efforts to address the biodiversity crisis, none of them have been fully met and only six have been partially achieved.

The catastrophic global decline in biodiversity threatens the systems upon which human life depends and a landmark 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned “transformative change” is essential to address the crisis and that  well-designed and ambitious frameworks adopted at CoP15 will be vital to stave off disaster.

Also crucial is the political will to implement them, something the CBD depends on in the absence of sanctions for non-compliance with its decisions.

Julian Newman, EIA Campaigns Director, said: “As the host nation, it is absolutely imperative that the Government of China sets the stage for CoP15 by committing to meaningful policy changes which will ensure the protection and recovery of biodiversity, both within China and around the world.

“Without a strong lead to influence ambitious discussions on the post-2020 framework and to galvanise their subsequent implementation, the CBD is likely to fall short once again and that can only further jeopardising the state of nature and all that depends upon it.”

Ahead of the October conference, EIA’s campaigners have produced the report All Eyes on Kunming, drawing on more than 36 years of experience investigating and campaigning against environmental crime and abuse to present China with a to-do list of actions, including:

  • eliminate demand for wildlife threatened by trade, including through banning commercial domestic trade in species such as big cats, rhinos, elephants, bears, pangolins and totoaba (including those from captive breeding), phasing out commercial breeding of these and other species that are threatened by trade, destroying stockpiles and investing in demand reduction;
  • monitor and investigate emissions of climate-warming refrigerant gas HFC-23 and support a rapid phase down of HFC greenhouse gases through ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment under the Montreal Protocol;
  • ensure strong implementation of the county’s new Forest Law to curb imports of illegal timber;
  • introduce legislation to combat the trade in illegally sourced commodities such as palm oil, beef, rubber and soy;
  • reassess foreign policy such as the negative impacts on biodiversity and climate of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its vast investments in fossil energy infrastructure;
  • tackle illegal trade and consumption of wildlife by Chinese nationals in other countries, including through financial investigations and sanctions;
  • ensure that international development of traditional Chinese medicine does not impact negatively on biodiversity by putting a comprehensive end to its use of wildlife threatened by trade;
  • address plastic pollution at the international level through strengthening the recent Basel Amendment and supporting a new comprehensive legally binding global plastics treaty.