Efforts to advance biodiversity conservation in China is generally not well understood in the West. But with China set to host the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) this October, China’s conservation initiatives — including those run by Chinese NGOs — are likely to receive more attention.
One of the most established NGOs in China’s conservation sector is the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), which was founded in 1985 and now operates several programs ranging from public interest litigation to community conservation areas to environmental education. In the run-up to the CBD meeting — which has been extended by nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — CBCGDF has been working to elevate the profile of biodiversity conservation across Chinese society as well as participating in the CBD process.
As secretary general of CBCGDF, Jinfeng Zhou has played a central role in CBCGDF’s work around the CBD and beyond. Zhou says that China has been doing “an impressive amount of work” on conservation domestically in recent years and that biodiversity once earned mention in the five-year plan released last month.
“The new plan continues to put emphasis on the importance of biodiversity, which covers many aspects of biodiversity conservation,” Zhou told Mongabay, alluding to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s history of remarks on the importance of environmental protection, including the “Two Mountains Theory”, which effectively holds that the environment cannot be sacrificed for the sake of economic growth.
But Zhou also concedes there is “still a lot of room for improvement” when it comes to the Chinese government’s relationship with the nature and the environment.
“It still uses the mindset of industrial civilization like entity output, economic development, and market share to define ‘development,’” Zhou told Mongabay.
Zhou says that one area where the Chinese government has become more proactive is on wildlife consumption. The pandemic may be playing a role in this.
“The main impact of the pandemic is to let everyone understand the risks and consequences of eating wild animals,” he said. “The prohibition on the consumption of wild animals and removing pangolins from the pharmacopeia are all initiatives that we had difficulty advancing before but became relatively smooth after the epidemic.”
Zhou discussed these issues and more in a recent interview with Mongabay