China submits draft biodiversity declaration to United Nations

In this photo taken on July 20, 2021, a conservation worker walks behind an elephant in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China will urge countries to recognise the importance of biodiversity in human health and endorse key Chinese Communist Party slogans about protecting natural ecosystems, according to a draft declaration submitted to the United Nations this week.

China wants the "Kunming Declaration" to be agreed by all parties ahead of delayed "COP 15" biodiversity talks due to take place in October in the southwestern city of Kunming, with the aim of sealing a new global treaty.

The "zero draft" of the declaration, published on the official website of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity on Thursday (Aug 26), includes the key Chinese Communist Party concept of "ecological civilisation".

It also includes the formulation of "lucid water and lush mountains", first used in a 2005 speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping and included in dozens of Chinese policy documents and propaganda campaigns since he became leader in 2012.

The document also calls on parties to "mainstream" biodiversity protection in decision-making, and recognise the importance of conservation in protecting human health - a prominent theme among China's leaders in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been blamed on wildlife trading and ecosystem destruction.

China wants the international community to sign the declaration during the virtual Kunming talks on Oct 11, with the aim of building a consensus behind a more detailed global treaty to be finalised in person next May.

Governments have been invited to give their "feedback" to the draft before Sept 6, according to a covering letter sent to the United Nations by Chinese environment minister Huang Runqiu.

"Ambition will need to be built up over the next month,"said Mr Li Shuo, senior climate adviser with the environment group Greenpeace in Beijing.

"As the technical negotiations sink deeper in the mud, the Declaration should help forge the consensus that technocrats are unable to."

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