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Pascal Lamy: China must take the lead in environmental protection

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Pascal Lamy is a prominent French political consultant who is a former Director General of the World Trade Organization and a former member of the European Commission.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed our way of life, causing hardship, misery and suffering worldwide. He showed how vulnerable our economic system is to this type of shock wave and highlighted the undeniable link between biodiversity and climate crises.

As we begin to envision a global post-coronavirus, one of the main topics for discussion at the National People’s Congress, the fundamental role and responsibility of China, is undoubtedly to take the lead in environmental action. , including protecting the world’s oceans. This must be recognized more than ever.

Healthy ecosystems on land and at sea support economic growth. This is part of the Chinese principle of ecological civilization, enshrined in the constitution in 2012. There is a growing awareness, including at the highest levels of leadership, that environmental protection should not be done at the expense of the economy. In fact, earlier this month President Xi Jinping said, “The environment itself means the economy. If you protect the environment, you will receive environmental rewards.”

Protecting the environment is also important to the Chinese people, according to a new public opinion survey prepared by Kantar, a leading data and knowledge company. Of those interviewed in China, 99% said they support offshore protected areas for fishing and commercial use to support wildlife and habitat.

Given what we know now, it will be impossible for humanity to return to a standstill approach that favors a destructive and extractive economic model. This would continue to expose us to increased environmental, social and economic instability. On the contrary, we need investments in nature, as this will generate enormous environmental, social and economic benefits. There is a lot to be gained from preserving nature, especially for an economy like China, which has worlds Highest absolute GDP in nature-dependent sectors to $ 2.7 trillion.

As the world understands that there will be no complete return to the lifestyles before Covid-19, we have a unique time and opportunity to reshape not only the way humanity engages with it. -same, but also how we engage with the world’s most important resource that we have the natural environment.

The ocean is often overlooked and undervalued, but it is an important contributor to the global economy. If it were a state, the ocean would be the seventh largest economy in the world with a GDP equivalent to $ 2.5 trillion, or 5% of global GDP. Its assets are valued at over $ 24 trillion; it supports the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people; and it provides the main protein to more than 2.5 billion people. An economy of this size must be preserved, yet climate change and unsustainable global practices are detrimental to its health.

the global ocean economy could more than double by 2030. Nearly $ 90 trillion in infrastructure investments are expected globally over the next 20 years, primarily along the coasts and in ocean sectors such as aquaculture, tourism, marine and offshore installations.

China is the largest fisherman and farmer in the world and builds offshore power plants. It is therefore in the interest of China as well as those of the rest of the world to show leadership in ensuring that, while this global ocean economy is developing, we were not making the mistakes of the past. The science is that clear safeguards and strict conservation rules, such as marine protected areas, must be applied to ensure that the ocean can continue to provide essential goods and services to future generations.

We cannot underestimate the critical importance of China’s leadership role in environmental action at this time. As host of the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, China has an enormous responsibility as well as a timely opportunity in the current crisis to ensure that a solid ten-year recovery plan for nature is agreed. The conference was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming from October 15-18, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Despite this, a key opportunity for major and lasting protection of nature remains in what some have called the Super Year for nature and biodiversity. In November, the global body responsible for conserving the waters surrounding Antarctica, a critical area for the world’s oceans, will meet to consider agreements on three proposals for large-scale marine protected areas.

The decision-making body for the Southern Ocean is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. It is a consensual body made up of 26 member states, including the European Union. It meets once a year to review conservation measures, including proposals for protection.

The progress made this year on the proposed marine protected areas depends on the progress of China. Protecting these areas in eastern Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula would amount to almost 4 million square kilometers of ocean protection in the threatened waters surrounding the southernmost continent, eliminating the factors stresses that harm these fragile ecosystems and marine life, building resilience to climate change and restoring valuable marine biodiversity.

As the world recovers from the current crisis, more than ever we need strong global leadership. Protecting the Antarctic Ocean would be a great opportunity for China to demonstrate this leadership and would result in one of the greatest acts of environmental protection in history.

The views and opinions expressed in this opinion section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial positions of Caixin Media.

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