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Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Answers Questions at "International Legislators' Summit – Protecting Nature: The Road to Kunming"

On 28th October, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming attended the "International Legislators' Summit – Protecting Nature: The Road to Kunming" hosted by the APPG on International Conservation. He delivered a keynote speech entitled Write a New Chapter of Ecological Conservation and Build a Shared Future for All Life on Earth and answered questions from the participants.

A transcript of the Q&A is as follows.

Wayne Stetski, Former MP in the House of Commons of Canada: Could you elaborate on China’s Red Line Policy on Biodiversity?

Ambassador Liu: I would like to make the following three points on China’s red line system for ecological protection:

First, the ecological red line is a national-level “lifeline”.

This is an important innovation for national spatial planning and management. It plays an important role in protecting the security of the ecosystem, maintaining the function of the ecosystem, and facilitating the sustainable development of the economy and society. By the end of 2020, ecological red line areas will cover 25% of the land territory in China.

Second, the ecological red line is drawn at each level down the chain of government spatial planning.

The areas under special protection are important ecologically functional zones and ecologically vulnerable areas. They cover all types of nature reserves with national parks being the main component. These areas are under strict management so as to reduce disruptions to the eco-environment by human activities.

By the end of 2018, China had 11,800 nature reserves of all types. They cover 1.728 million square kilometers and over 18% of China’s land area. This has exceeded, ahead of schedule, the goal of designating 17% of land area as nature reserves by 2020, which was set at COP10.

Third, the ecological resources in the ecological red line areas are utilized in a rational way.

The red lines must not be trampled upon in whatever forms, whether it is protecting biodiversity, adjusting economic structure, planning for industrial development or promoting new type of urbanization.

However, this does not mean “absolute no use” of the resources in all these areas, nor are these areas “no man’s land” or “off-limits to development”.

The Chinese Government encourages the sustainable use of high-quality ecological resources in these areas and the exploration of ways to tap the value of ecological products. In other words, we are working to turn clear water and green mountains into mountains of gold and silver, and translate ecological strengths into economic gains.

Furthermore, in line with the spirit of the Convention on Biological Diversity, China has issued the China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030). This document outlines the overall targets, strategic tasks and priorities of biological conservation in China in the coming 20 years.

Since 2015, China has conducted wildlife survey and monitoring under major biodiversity conservation projects, with more than 2.1 million entries. Continued efforts have also been made to track and evaluate the progress in the implementation of the Strategy and Action Plan.

China stands ready to enhance communication with all parties on the ecological red line system and facilitate implementing our respective national action plans.

Charity Kathambi Chepkwony, MP of Kenya: How can Belt and Road Initiative help countries develop more in a sustainable manner and focus on clean, green development pathways?

Ambassador Liu: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a path leading to both economic prosperity and green development. China has followed the concept of green development in building BRI. We have aligned BRI development with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have built, operated and managed infrastructure in a green and low-carbon way, emphasized ecological conservation in investment and trade, and cooperated with participating parties on environmental conservation, biodiversity protection and climate action.

We are ready to enhance cooperation on building green BRI with other countries in the following three aspects:

The first is to develop green mechanisms.

In 2019, the BRI International Green Development Coalition was launched. It consists of 10 thematic partnerships, including the one on “biodiversity and ecosystem management”. Now the Coalition has more than 150 partners in over 40 countries.

China has launched the Green Silk Road Envoys Programme to help other developing countries build up their capacity of environmental protection. Through this programme, we have helped train more than 2,000 officials, experts and technicians from over 120 countries.

The Chinese Government has also established the Belt and Road Environmental Technology and Transfer Centre to facilitate the joint R&D and application of advanced technologies for ecological and environmental protection.

The second is to encourage green development.

In designing and building BRI projects, Chinese enterprises have taken into full consideration the need for conservation as well as economic development.

For example, when Chinese companies built the Karachi-Lahore Highway in Pakistan, they planted nearly 300,000 trees and more than 5 million square meters of grass land along the road. Along with new road infrastructure, they also contributed to the local environment.

Also in Pakistan, when building the Hubco Thar Coal Power Plant, the Chinese applied advanced clean coal technologies and set aside 10% of the budget for pollution prevention and control. The emissions are completely up to standards.

The third is to enhance cooperation in green finance.

More than 30 large financial institutions around the world have signed the “Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road”. In doing so, they are committed to a full understanding of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks; full disclosure of environmental information; making full use of green financial tools; adopting green supply chain management, etc.

China encourages financial institutions to support the building of green BRI. In 2019, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China issued the first green bond under the Belt and Road Inter-Bank Regular Cooperation Mechanism. This was a big step forward in deepening financial cooperation on green BRI.

China will remain committed to open, green and sustainable development. We stand ready to carry out third-party market cooperation with developed countries including the UK on building a green Belt and Road. And we will help more countries along the BRI routes to achieve green, clean and sustainable development via platforms such as Belt and Road International Alliance for Green Development.

Cedric Thomas Frolick, House Chairperson in the National Assembly of Parliament for the Republic of South Africa: How does China view the role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the protection of marine ecology?

Ambassador Liu: The ocean is an indispensable part of the earth's ecosystem, and protecting marine biodiversity is very important to China's sustainable development. As a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China has always been committed to complying with international laws including the UNCLOS. The Beijing Call for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change, reached by China and France in 2009, clearly called for mobilizing all States towards an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. At present, China has approved the establishment of more than 40 national marine parks and established more than 270 Marine Nature Reserves/Special Marine Reserves (marine parks) at various levels. The number and area of marine protected areas are continuously expanding, and the range of biodiversity protected is becoming more abundant.

China will work with other countries to do a good job in the protection of marine biodiversity, jointly build a protective barrier for marine biodiversity, and make more contributions to the protection of the ocean.

Lord Randell, Member of House of Lords in the UK: In the context of the pandemic, how to increase public awareness of and enthusiasm for participating in biodiversity protection?

Ambassador Liu: Protecting biodiversity is not just a matter for the government. All sectors of society should be widely involved. Raising public awareness to increase participation is one of the eight strategic tasks in the "China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030)". We have established a mechanism for public participation in biodiversity protection, carried out various forms of publicity and education activities, guided the public to actively participate, and strengthened common science lessons of biodiversity in schools. Next year, COP15 will also hold parallel meetings, including a number of side events and exhibitions, to encourage the public to participate fully in COP15. China will also establish a "China Corner" at COP26 as usual, to provide a platform for Chinese local governments, scientific research institutions, and non-governmental organizations to participate in the multilateral efforts of combating climate change and achieving green, low-carbon development. The Chinese side is willing to work with the British side to encourage more companies, civil organizations and other social sectors to participate, so as to host COP15 and COP26 successfully, and to contribute to the global biodiversity protection.

Verónica Delgadillo García, Senator of Mexico: How do you see the relationship between the two COPs next year (15 and 26) and how can we adopt Nature-based solutions more widely?

Ambassador Liu: At the UN Summit on Biodiversity, President Xi Jinping said, man and nature are interdependent. It is our belief that in global governance on the environment, the international community must focus on both climate change and biodiversity.

Protecting biodiversity helps mankind mitigate and adapt to climate change. Mitigation and adaptation to climate change will in turn reduce the threats on biodiversity. They are two sides of the same coin.

The year 2021 will be a “big year” for global governance on the environment, and COP15 and COP26 will be the two most important platforms. China and the UK can step up coordination in the following three aspects to create synergy between the two conferences:

First, China and the UK can work together to improve ecological conservation.

Climate change and biodiversity bear on the survival and development of mankind. COP15 and COP26 create opportunities for us to explore a path of harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and a balance between growth and conservation. We must respect, protect and follow the law of nature. We must assume our responsibility for human civilization.

Second, China and the UK can work together to achieve green development.

Climate change and biodiversity matter a great deal to the economic recovery in the post-pandemic world. We should stay on course to meet the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda and remain committed to green, inclusive and sustainable development.

Through hosing COP15 and COP26, China and the UK can explore opportunities for growth in conservation, balance ecological conservation with high-quality growth, and build up the dynamism for post-pandemic recovery.

Third, China and the UK can work together to safeguard multilateralism.

International conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement, are the legal basis for governance on environment. They are also important outcomes of multilateral cooperation. They enjoy extensive support and participation.

COP15 and COP26 are best venues for China and the UK to uphold the international system with the UN at its core, safeguard the dignity and authority of international rules, and gather international support for environmental governance.

Both China and the UK attach great importance to Nature-Based Solution (NBS), which is an important topic of COP26. China and the UK should work together to promote the application of NBS, which helps the coordinated settlement of climate change and loss of biological diversity. It also helps promote the green, low-carbon and sustainable development in the world.

China, together with New Zealand, led the NBS efforts at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, issued NBS outcomes at the Summit, including the Policy Proposal on Nature-Based Solutions, and set up the Group of Friends for Nature-Based Solutions as a platform for follow-up cooperation.

China has also contributed its wisdom by proposing an NBS action initiative. It is called “Drawing a ‘Red Line’ for Ecological Protection to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change”.

China stands ready to step up communication and cooperation with the UK side on NBS. We should encourage all parties to value nature, and urge governments, financial institutions, businesses and other stakeholders to give NBS priority in protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change, to make ambitious plans and take concrete actions.

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