Published: 11:57, December 19, 2022 | Updated: 11:57, December 19, 2022
Grassroots work stressed at COP15
By Liu Yinmeng in Montreal

Efforts of China’s subnational governments highlighted at UN biodiversity summit

From left: Kunming Mayor Liu Jiachen, Secretary-General of ICLEI Gino Van Begin, President of COP15 Huang Runqiu, Executive Secretary of the UN CBD Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, and International Coordinator of Climate Action Sergio Humberto Graf pose for a group photo during the seventh Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities on Dec 11 in Montreal. (LIU YINMENG / CHINA DAILY)

The role that China’s regional governments and local authorities play in boosting biodiversity was highlighted at the ongoing United Nations’ COP15 summit in Montreal, Canada.

As frontline guardians and practitioners of biodiversity, subnational governments and cities have always played key roles in the process of global biodiversity governance, said Huang Runqiu, the president of the 15th Conference of the Parties, or COP15, and China’s minister of ecology and environment.

“How to strengthen close collaboration with the governments of the parties to the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) and jointly promote the implementation of global goals and national strategies at the local and city level is a difficult problem that requires us to pool our wisdom and solve together,” Huang said.

He made the remarks during the seventh Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities, a parallel event of COP15, which gathered subnational and local government leaders to discuss strengthened actions to protect biodiversity. The two-day meeting ended on Dec 12.

China is committed to creating livable cities where people and nature coexist. By enhancing urban planning, construction and governance, the country will continue to improve the standard of urban ecological construction, Huang said.

Take Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, as an example. The city’s Longquan Mountain Urban Forest Park, covering around 1,275 square kilometers, is the largest of its kind in the world, he said.

Shanghai, a Chinese megacity, has continued to explore the best practices of integrating urban development and nature, Huang said. It has incorporated the concept of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature into the update of its central urban area.

In the past decade, the number of parks in Shanghai has increased from 153 to 532, and the number of trees on the streets has grown from 925,000 to more than 1.45 million, he said.

Among the speakers at the event was Kunming Mayor Liu Jiachen, who pointed out that Kunming was the first Chinese city to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, which calls on the parties to the CBD to recognize the vital role of regional, city and local governments in implementing the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Noting that Kunming is building a “center of excellence” in cooperation with ICLEI, an international nongovernmental organization and the organizer of the meeting, Liu said Kunming is willing to work closely with cities around the world to strengthen commitments to biodiversity.

Wen Zhong, deputy director-general of the Shenzhen Municipal Ecology Environment Bureau, who also spoke at the meeting, shared how Shenzhen, a major manufacturing hub in South China, balances economic development and ecological protection.

“Shenzhen adheres to the concept of ecological priority and green development,” Wen said.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, told the meeting that she was “very pleased” with the ambitious ideas and actions highlighted by the speakers.

Mrema, in her opening remarks, praised the “amazing mobilization” of the Chinese cities and provinces. “We will see Chinese cities being recognized for their leadership and announce their flagship initiatives,” she said.

Gino Van Begin, secretary-general of ICLEI, also praised Chinese cities for their “innovative approach” to conservation.