China is a crucial country in both, the climate and biodiversity crisis. It is the most populous country in the world and the biggest manufacturer as well as carbon emitter in the world. It is also the second largest country in world and covers 6.3% of the earth´s land mass. The landscape includes one of the driest deserts in the world, biting-cold winter landscapes with Amur tigers, some of the highest peaks in the world, tropical rainforests and much more. It is classified as one 17 megadiverse countries and home to 14% of all animal species as well as 10% of plant species on earth.
Despite all of this biodiversity, China is lacking far behind when it comes to protecting this biodiversity. The environmental issues in China are manifold and have been ignored in favour of industrial and economic development for decades. China has been slowing down international climate and biodiversity efforts, most recently during the climate summit COP26. It also still heavily relies on the dirtiest energy source of all, coal. It also does not have any kind of nationally protected areas parks to safeguard its biodiversity, only small local nature reserves.
First five National Parks announced in China
This however, is on its way to change. In 2015, China has started a pilot study on the establishment of a national park system. After six long years, this has finally produced some results. The evaluators have chosen five areas that are ought to become the first national parks in China. Each of them was chosen to protect either an iconic species or a typical ecosystem.
To further advance natural solutions, China and the international community must work together to fully protect 30 percent of the world’s oceans and lands by 2030; ensure that soft commodities like soy products, beef, and pulp and paper are produced and procured in ways that are legal and sustainable; and make certain that people across the developing world have access to the finance and technology needed to protect their communities from the climate crisis and embrace a clean energy future.
The five chosen national parks are:
- Three-River-Source NP protects the source of China´s three biggest rivers and the Tibetan plateau
- Northeast China Tiger & Leopard NP in the only area, where both species occur
- Hainan Island NP is home to China’s best preserved tropical rainforest
- Wuyi Mountains NP combines a variety of biotopes and existing protected areas
- Giant Panda NP covers 75% of the panda´s wild population
All five areas combined cover 230,000 km2. It will complement the over 10,000 nature reserves that are currently the most important tool to protect biodiversity in China. The national parks will be managed centrally on national level and guarded by local rangers that will receive a stable living wage. The establishment will also be accompanied by ‘livelihood programmes’ for local communities and tourism development.
These five national parks are only the start in China. The country announced to implement a national park system by 2035. Let´s hope that this system of nationally protected areas will indeed become reality in 2035 and that it will not be too late to preserve China´s biodiversity. And let´s hope that there are also some Wilderness Advocates involved in the process that will reserve space for Wilderness in the new national parks.