Making Big Plans

Blueprint for a Better Future

See stunning images of Priority Conservation Areas around China.

Check out this interactive map to see how the Conservancy is helping chart China's green future.

Every big construction project needs a blueprint. And in China — one of the world’s largest and most diverse countries — The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Blueprint is helping to support an enormous, sustainable construction project.

The newly announced National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan demonstrates the central government’s efforts to build a greener China and highlights the positive impact that the Conservancy — the only NGO that contributed directly to the plan — and its Blueprint are having on the country’s environmental future.

The plan is the first in China since 1994 and sets a number of bold objectives, including a halt to the loss of all biodiversity in China by 2020.

“The National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan will shape China’s environmental policies for years to come,” says Zhang Shuang, director of the Conservancy’s China program and the project leader for the Blueprint. “We’re very proud that the Conservancy’s science is playing a crucial role in taking on the most pressing threats to China’s environment.”

Floorplan for the Future

In a country as large as China, taking stock of those threats — which are numerous — is difficult. With a population of over 1.3 billion people, China is developing rapidly, and that progress could have damaging results for the environment if it doesn’t proceed in smart, sustainable ways.

Completing an assessment of the risks is also complicated by China’s size and environmental diversity — the country contains a wealth of life that’s found nowhere else on Earth. In the face of such a daunting project, the Conservancy’s Conservation Blueprint project adopted a methodical, scientific approach. It sought not only to take stock of China’s ecological makeup but also to identify the resources and natural benefits that people and wildlife need most.

When the Conservancy’s scientists finished their work after four years, the result was a detailed ecological profile of an entire country. The Blueprint identified 32 terrestrial Priority Conservation Areas where the opportunities for conservation and need for protection are greatest. It also included an in depth assessment of the Yangtze River Basin, funded by the Great Rivers Partnership, that helped pave the way for the Blueprint itself. The Conservancy’s work in China is closely aligned with the project’s findings.

Constructive Goals

Now, the Chinese government’s conservation priorities are also aligned with the Blueprint. The Conservancy has developed strong working partnerships with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the State Forestry Administration to help advance nature throughout the entire country.

The National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan ties the future work of China’s environmental agencies to the same set of priorities that the Conservancy has been advancing through its own projects. It aims to:

  • Protect 90 percent of China’s protected species and key ecosystems through nature reserves.
  • Conduct complete biodiversity surveys by 2015 for 8-10 of the priority conservation areas identified by the new plan.
  • Halt the loss of biodiversity in China by 2020.

The Blueprint and plan are also having significant regional effects. Sichuan Province is putting one billion RMB toward improving its protected areas and creating five new nature reserves. And in Qinghai Province, the Blueprint is helping to guide sustainable development plans.

A Sustainable Foundation

Such ambitious goals will require a host of new policies. Now that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has signed the plan, a wide array of government institutions — including the Ministry of Agriculture, State Forestry Administration and the Water Resources Commission, among many others — will embark on a new array of sustainable initiatives.

Those initiatives will aim to protect freshwater resources such as the Yangtze River, improve the management of existing protected areas and help China reduce its carbon footprint while combating the impacts of climate change. The Conservancy’s efforts to protect the Yunnan golden monkey provide a prototype for the species-specific initiatives called for in the new plan.

“We’re very pleased that the plan aligns so well with our own work in China,” says the Conservancy’s Zhang. “I’m heartened that the Conservancy’s vision aligns so well with the central government’s, and I’m glad we’ll be able to work together on building a more sustainable China.”


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