Legislative progress of biodiversity conservation in China

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As International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd draws attention to biodiversity conservation, the recent enactment of China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecological Conservation Law has placed a significant emphasis on protecting biodiversity.

In recent years, China has witnessed a surge in legislation related to environmental protection, wildlife conservation, biosafety and wetland protection. The fact that biodiversity becomes a key word reflects the urgent need to protect biodiversity, given the global challenges of climate change, environmental pollution, and excessive development.

As early as 1992, China became one of the first signatories of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, followed by other biodiversity conservation efforts, such as the evolving legislative framework domestically.

It is worth noting that biodiversity encompasses not only species diversity but also ecosystem diversity at the macro level and genetic diversity at the micro level. The more than 50 laws and regulations related to biodiversity conservation that China has formulated or revised to date have taken into account these broad and diverse dimensions, thus driving the continuous progress of the legislative system.

Currently, corresponding national laws have been enacted for various ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, oceans, rivers and lakes, deserts and wetlands, including basin-specific legislation such as the Yangtze River Protection Law and the Yellow River Protection Law, region-specific legislation such as the Black Soil Protection Law and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecological Protection Law, and nature reserves legislation, represented by the National Parks Law.

These efforts have laid a solid legal foundation for biodiversity conservation with a more problem-oriented and targeted approach.

However, due to limitations in legislative thinking, resources and techniques, the progress of biodiversity conservation legislation is imbalanced, and legal loopholes and legal vacuum in certain areas remain.

For example, in species protection, the Wildlife Protection Law only focuses on rare and endangered animals, while ordinary wildlife remains outside the scope of legislative protection. China’s regulations on wild plants protection not only suffer from similar legislative limitations but are also classified only as administrative regulations. Microorganisms, as an important branch of species, receive minimal legislative protection.

Additionally, issues crucial to biodiversity, such as invasive alien species, genetically modified organism safety, and genetic resource protection, currently rely mainly on institutional norms at the level of regulations and rules, with only principle-based provisions at the legal level.

It is evident that future biodiversity conservation legislation should focus on filling gaps, improving quality, and upgrading the legislative hierarchy. Effective measures include comprehensively reviewing the list of issues, accelerating the establishment of institutional frameworks, and ultimately meeting the legal requirements for biodiversity conservation through both quantitative and qualitative changes in relevant legislation.

It is also essential to recognize that biodiversity conservation is a comprehensive undertaking involving multiple elements. So the currently insufficient legal protection, scattered across various laws, regulations, rules, and even lower-level norms, will need to be addressed as the protection of biodiversity has become a national strategy.

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