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China to integrate biodiversity and climate change
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While harsh blame for global warming is directed at auto emissions released from automobile exhaust pipe that congest traffic on busy roads, or criticism is directed at the countless heavily smoking chimneys in plants, we may inadvertently ignore the wealth of natural resources – biodiversity and healthy ecosystems – as a way to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. For example, forests and marshlands are natural carbon dioxide sinks and naturally reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Conversely, global warming has already made huge impacts on natural eco-systems and its impact on human economics. The UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (ICPP) has estimated that 20-30 percent of the earth's species face extinction if temperatures were to increase by 1.5-2.5 degrees Celsius.

Such links between climate change and biodiversity brought together over 200 representatives from international organizations, various Chinese governmental organs, relevant research institutes and NGOs to participate in a two-day workshop that kicked off on March 6 in Beijing.

Sponsored by the EU-China Biodiversity Program, the International Workshop on Biodiversity and Climate Change aimed to offer an opportunity for policy-makers and experts from related communities to encourage dialogue and cooperation regarding good biodiversity management in order to reduce the effects of climate change. The workshop also hoped to find ways to protect valuable biodiversity and ecosystems from the adverse affects of climate change.

Home to 17,300 species of flowering plants and 667 endemic vertebrates, China is one of the most organically diverse rich countries in the world. However, due to human intervention and climate factors, many ecosystems in the country are fast being degraded. Species populations are witnessing sharp declines, with some below the minimum viable population size that leads to impending extinction.

Wu Xiaoqing, Vice Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), one of the organizers of the workshop, presented the participants with a batch of statistics illustrating the critical situation regarding China's biodiversity conservation. He said that according to the newly released China Species Red List, based on the standard criteria of the IUCN (World Conservation Union), the proportions of endangered species in China are as follows: 34.74 percent – invertebrates, 35.92 percent – vertebrates, 69.91 percent – gymnosperm and 86.63 – angiosperm.

"The figures far exceed earlier estimates ranging between 2 to 30 percent," noted the vice minister, who continued to emphasized that currently China has just started its research on biodiversity's role in mitigating and its adaptation to climate change. In fact the country is facing formidable tasks.

"We shall not only self-consciously follow economic rules and natural laws and try our best to enhance environmental protection, but also we should acquire more advanced international experience, ideas and technologies through international cooperation. That's why we are sitting together here today".

Mr. Serge Abou, Ambassador of the EU Delegation of the European Commission to China, shared Wu's ideas. He said in his opening remarks that he expected the workshop to act as a further step forward in the process of strengthening the EU-China partnership on climate change.

"I am very pleased to see that the Chinese government has attached high importance on biodiversity and climate change in line with its new scientific outlook on development and resource conservation models," Mr. Serge Abou said.

Furthermore, Mr. Abou felt even more pleased by a confirmation he received from the annual government report delivered by China's Premier Wen Jiabao at the First Session of the 11 National People's Congress on March 5. "I heard that Premier Wen quoted a paragraph that confirmed and highlighted the Chinese government’s commitment to actively responding to climate change," said Mr. Abou to the workshop participants.

Regarding the cooperation between China and the EU, Mr. Abou noted that the EU-China Biodiversity Program is currently conducting a study on biodiversity and climate change in China. The project supports the Chinese government in developing its national strategy for incorporating biodiversity into a climate change mitigation and adaptation plan.

During the workshop, over 10 domestic and foreign experts gave presentations on China's and other countries' practices. Topics included: climate change adaptation, biodiversity and climate change linkages, experience and best practice in biodiversity mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

All About: biodiversity, climate change

(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, March 7, 2008)

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