China's "Master Plan for conserving biodiversity"|
After endorsement by the State Council of the People's Republic of China, on 7 December 2007 the State
Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) released the Master Plan for the Conservation and Exploitation of Biological Resources.
Although initiated by SEPA, the Plan has been formulated through collaboration with 17 other Chinese Government departments.The Plan puts forward a guiding ideology as well as a series of principles for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.
Importantly, it also specifies goals to be met in three different phases: short-term goals up until 2010; mediumterm goals to 2015; and long-term targets for 2020. By 2010, for example, the Plan calls on China to have collected baseline data about important species for conservation, to have set up a database and information management system, as well as to have improved controls on the import and export of biological resources.
Under the Plan, ten "priority" actions and 55 "priority" projects are to be implemented in the coming years. These include: compiling an inventory of species and genetic resources; and establishing a legal system for governing the exploitation and equitable benefit sharing of genetic resources.
The Master Plan is couched in China's overall goals of promoting balance between nature and human development
and utilising scientific advances. The next important step for the realisation of this ambitious plan will be ensuring it
receives the necessary resources and political will to contribute to achieving the 2010 biodiversity targets.
With thanks to Dr. Xue Dayuan for supplying this information.
Bali Plan promises action on climate change and deforestation
World leaders agreed to the Bali Action Plan (BAP) at
global negotiations in Bali, Indonesia in December. The
deadlock in global climate negotiations since the signing of
the Kyoto Protocol ten years ago was finally broken when
the USA, China and India signed up to the BAP.¹ The
BAP addresses three key concerns: stabilising greenhouse
gases to avoid dangerous interference in the climate
system; allowing continued rapid economic development
and poverty reduction; and helping countries adapt to
the inevitable intensifying climate change. An Ad Hoc
Working Group will reach a detailed global agreement
by 2009 setting "measurable, reportable, and verifiable"
commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.² The
BAP also calls for knowledge transfer on environmentally
sound technologies to poor countries.¹
The Plan includes consideration of policies and incentives
for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation (REDD) in developing countries.² While
implementing REDD has challenges - how to ensure
forest carbon savings are permanent; how to avoid carbon
conservation in one area driving deforestation in another;
how to measure historic deforestation as a baseline for
calculating reduction; how to ensure local communities
have a fair chance of benefits relative to powerful
corporations³ - most conservationists welcome the effort,
supported by the Forests Now Declaration signed by
many organisations, governments and individuals.4
1 guardian.co.uk/commentisfree>Jeffrey Sachs, 26 December 2007.
It's now or never
The 2007-2008 Human Development Report¹ gives a
compelling case for urgent action to avoid the reversals
in human development that will accompany projected
climate change. It calls on governments to recognise that
the economic model driving growth, and the profligate
consumption in rich nations that accompanies it, is
ecologically unsustainable. It argues more realistic goals
and a multilateral framework are needed, to establish a
maximum threshold for dangerous climate change at 2ºC
above preindustrial levels.
Under present development scenarios this threshold will
be breached between 2032 and 2042. Staying under the
threshold requires a stabilisation target for atmospheric
carbon dioxide (CO2) of 450 parts per million, and a cut
in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) of 20-30%
by 2020 and 50% by 2050. The report calls for policies
for mitigation through sustainable carbon budgeting, and
strengthening the international cooperation framework.
These must address market failures that, for example,
allow deforestation in Indonesia at a minimum cost of
US$50-100 (the carbon value if tradeable on the European
Union's Emissions Trading Scheme) for a benefit of US$1
(in palm oil revenue). The report also notes the world is
committed to sustained global warming for the first half of
the 21st Century, and that adaptation must be at the centre
of the post-2012 Kyoto framework and international
partnerships for poverty reduction.
Sources: ¹United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2007.
Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World. Human
Development Report 2007/2008. UNDP.
Caution urged over biofuels
Reports on biofuels by the UK Royal Society and OECD
call for balancing various factors in a coherent policy.1,2
Each biofuel should be assessed on its own merits, based
on full environmental and economic life-cycle analysis.¹
Among present technologies only sugarcane-to-ethanol
in Brazil, ethanol as a by-product of cellulose production,
and biodiesel from animal fats and used cooking oil, can
reduce greenhouse gases by over 40% compared with
gasoline and mineral diesel, and their potential to meet
the demands of the transport sector is very limited.²
Environmental, social and economic impacts of land use
should be assessed, locally and globally; changes in land use
risk releasing enough greenhouse gases to negate intended
climate benefits, as well as impacting biodiverse ecosystems
and food security. Only 48% of global grain is now fed
directly to humans, with 35% going to livestock feed and
17% to biofuels; strong demand has pushed cereal prices to
1 The Royal Society, http://royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=28632
2 Doornbosch R & R Steenblik, 2007. Biofuels: Is the Cure
Worse than the Disease?
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
3 Worldwatch Institute, www.worldwatch.org/node/5539#notes
New guidelines on sustainable collection of wild plants
A new International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP) has been produced, by the IUCN-SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, TRAFFIC, WWF Germany and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, with support from IUCN Canada. A response to requests from industry, governments, organic certifiers, resource managers and collectors, the ISSC-MAP provides: a framework of principles and criteria for managing MAP species and their ecosystems; guidance for management planning; a
basis for monitoring and reporting; and recommended requirements for certification. The six principles are:
to maintain wild MAP resources; to prevent negative
environmental impacts; to comply with laws, regulations
and agreements; to respect local communities' customary
user rights; to apply responsible management practices;
and to apply responsible business practices. The Standard
is timely: of some 50,000 to 70,000 medicinal and
aromatic plants used, one-quarter could be threatened by
unsustainable collection. A previous draft has been tested in
various projects, including those in Wanglang NNR and
Baima State Forest in China.
Temperature rise will eliminate many more bird species
A model combining elevational ranges, Millennium Assessment habitat-loss scenarios, and an intermediate estimate of 2.8ºC surface warming, projected 400-550
land-bird extinctions, and an additional 2,150 threatened
species by 2100. Only 21% of species predicted to become
extinct were previously considered threatened. The
authors note there is an urgent need for high-resolution
measurements of shifts in the elevational ranges of species.
Source: Sekercioglu C et al., 2007. Conservation Biology (OnlineEarly Articles) doi 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2007.00852.x
Turtle plight gets worse
The Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle Rafetus swinhoei is
now feared to number just two individuals, one male
and one female, in captivity. The 80-year-old female in
Changsha Zoo, Hunan, and the 100-year-old male in
Suzhou Zoo, Jiangsu, are the last hope, following the
death of a third individual in a Suzhou Buddhist temple in
August, the failure of experts to confirm the existence of
another animal there, and a dispute over the identity of an
animal in Hanoi, Vietnam. Artificial insemination of the
surviving animals will be attempted in spring 2008.
Source: New York Times 5 December 2007.