Media Outreach Newswire

Experts come together to support updating the city’s nature conservation masterplan

HONG KONG SAR – Media OutReach Newswire – 27 March 2024 – The Hong Kong Government is currently formulating the next phase of the city’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP), which is the overarching strategy for conserving nature. A group of more than 60 conservationists from the academic, NGO and corporate sectors came together today for the first time since 2016 to start a collaborative process to discuss progress made under the current BSAP (2016-2021) and make suggestions for the next BSAP. China’s current BSAP (2023-2030) was released in mid-January this year and makes reference to Hong Kong as a important region for biodiversity.

The 2016-23 BSAP was Hong Kong’s first, and was led by the then Environment Bureau and Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD). The action plan consisted of 57 actions divided into four areas: i) enhancing conservation measures, ii) mainstreaming biodiversity, iii) improving our knowledge and, iv) promoting community involvement. While the COVID19 pandemic delayed progress in many fronts, it also highlighted the value of having a diverse array of natural coastal and mountainous areas on the city’s doorstep, as millions took to the country and marine parks and other natural areas to escape the crowds and relax. Nature based tourism such as scuba diving reported record numbers looked within the SAR for recreational opportunities.

Major biodiversity-related developments globally since 2016 include a deeper onset of climate change with various weather records being broken (including locally), and a worsening of the related global biodiversity crisis. For example the WWF Living Planet Report 2022 found that monitored populations of more than 5,200 species around the world had declined around 69% between 1970 and 2018. Findings such as these have triggered an upscaling of the global response including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) agreed in late 2022 which includes goals for 2030 and 2050 to halt and reverse nature loss. Leading financial institutions and companies have also come together to address biodiversity loss in a way never seen before through the formation of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and framework for measuring, disclosing and addressing biodiversity impacts.

A diverse Expert Biodiversity Steering Committee has been formed locally to guide a process through which the conservation community can review progress under the current BSAP, and make suggestions for the new phase. This process is expected to last for most of 2024, and culminate with a final report to the Environment and Ecology Bureau, and AFCD. The process kicked off today with a workshop held at the Maritime Museum to brief interested conservationists on the upcoming process, and to start working on priority areas. Government representatives from the AFCD took part and shared their plans and priorities for updating the BSAP.

Steering Committee Chair Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist, Institute for the Environment at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology noted ” The importance of biodiversity is now acknowledged globally as just as important as decarbonization in the era of achieving sustainability. The loss of biodiversity is a major planetary boundary. Hong Kong’s effort in producing an appropriate BSAP for this era is essential, and we can only do it with cooperation across the public and private sectors.”

Business Environment Council CEO Simon Ng – another Steering Committee member – acknowledged the significant increase in interest in nature conservation amongst the corporate sector since formulation of the current BSAP. “Recently, corporate awareness of the relevance and importance of biodiversity and nature conservation to business strategies and operations is on the rise. Leading companies in Hong Kong have made global commitment by signing up as TNFD early adopters, signalling their intent to adopt the TNFD recommendations. Meanwhile, companies deep into their net-zero journey are seriously exploring nature-based solutions as a means to address carbon and enhance climate resilience. It is the best of time to bring corporates to the table, discuss approach on nature-positive economy, and solicit their perspectives into BSAP 2.0.”

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Dr. Michael Lau, ecologist and Founder of the Hong Kong Wetlands Conservation Association highlighted that to underestimate Hong Kong’s biodiversity because the SAR’s small size would be a mistake. “Hong Kong’s biodiversity is of global importance. There are endemic orchid, snake, lizard, firefly and other insect species that cannot be found in other parts of the world. We also host globally critically-endangered species, such as Big-headed Turtle in which Hong Kong is a stronghold. The denuded hillsides and degraded wetlands are prime areas for restoring lush forests and productive wetlands. Nature-based Solutions such as these can support a rich biodiversity, enhance the city’s climate resilience, and also provide natural areas for the enjoyment of the people.”

Marine Thomas, Associate Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Hong Kong said ” The BSAP establishes government policy for years to come and is an opportunity to correct course where necessary. For example, the protection of marine biodiversity still falls far behind when compared to terrestrial biodiversity. From endangered shellfish reefs to mighty whales, Hong Kong hosts ~25% of all marine species found in China. Currently only 5% of waters are protected, well below the GBF global target of 30%, while less than 20% of our marine ecological hotspots are protected. A review of marine conservation policies can help ensure that our network of Marine Protected Areas adequately fulfils its role to protect and restore our rich marine resources.”

Background Information

All countries that are signatories to the Convention for Biological Diversity should have a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP). Hong Kong SAR has a city focused BSAP that contributes to China’s national plan. The formulation of the first Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2016-21) was a very inclusive process and benefitted from the expert input of many academics, NGOs and others. The BSAP has expired and needs to be updated through a new plan. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has shared through an update to the Advisory Coucil on the Environment in early September 2023 that it is preparing to produce a next phase BSAP, with a view to making the plan public in 2025.

An informal Steering Committee has been formed to guide a process through which the conservation community can review progress under the current BSAP, and make suggestions for the new phase. This process is expected to last for most of 2024, and culminate with a final report to the Environment and Ecology Bureau and AFCD.

WWF (2022) Living Planet Report 2022 – Building a nature-positive society. Almond, R.E.A., Grooten, M., Juffe Bignoli, D. & Petersen, T. (Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland WEBLINK

Hong Kong Expert Biodiversity Steering Committee and Affiliations
Chair – Christine Loh, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Vice Chair – Dr. Michael Lau, Hong Kong Wetlands Conservation Association, The University of Hong Kong

Dr. Bosco Chan, WWF-Hong Kong
Prof. David Dudgeon, The University of Hong Kong
Sophie Le Clue, ADM Capital Foundation
Lawrence Iu, Civic Exchange
Simon Ng, Business Environment Council
Stan Shea, BLOOM Association Hong Kong
Marine Thomas, The Nature Conservancy
Ming Chuan Woo, Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Dr. Andy Cornish, Cornerstone Strategies

Hashtag: #CornerstoneStrategies

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