Challenges in China's Natural Resources Conservation & Biodiversity Legislation

Article excerpt

I.  INTRODUCTION

II. BIODIVERSITY LEGISLATION IN CHINA

   A. Ecosystem Protection and Conservation

   B. Nature Reserves Management Tools

   C. Resource Use And Protection

III. CHALLENGES FACING EXISTING LEGISLATION

   A. Ecological Values

   B. Implementation and Enforcement

   C. Public Participation

IV. IMPROVING CHINA'S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION
AND BIODIVERSITY LEGISLATION

   A. Participation and Incentives

   B. Liability

   C. Legislative And Administrative Coordination

V. CONCLUSION AND FINAL PROPOSAL

I. INTRODUCTION

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), biodiversity refers to "the variability among living organisms from all sources including ... terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems." (1) The CBD divides this generalized definition of biodiversity into genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity. (2)

Few other countries possess the same level of biodiversity as China. (3) China is home to over 30,000 types of vascular plants and 6,347 vertebrates, accounting for 10% and 14% of the world's totals, respectively. (4) China also has a wide variety of unique terrestrial habitat types. (5) The United States is similar to China in size and also offers a high level of biodiversity, but still is not as diverse as China. (6) The U.S. is home to 4,529 types of vertebrates and 18,100 vascular plants. (7) In total, the U.S. has documented more than 200,000 species of animals, plants, and fungi, representing more than 10% of all documented species worldwide. (8)

The decline of biodiversity is accelerating throughout the world. (9) While biodiversity loss is significant in the United States, (10) the rate of loss is especially pronounced in China where ecosystem and species diversity is threatened by China's rapid economic development, which has already impacted environmental quality. (11) Throughout China, river and lake sedimentation are increasing; lake and groundwater levels are decreasing; oasis and vegetation loss in arid areas is more common; natural forests are being cut; reclamation and destruction of grasslands continue; red tide is damaging the marine ecosystem; beach erosion and seawater encroachment are worsening; wildlife populations are decreasing; and many rare plant and animal species are in danger of extinction. (12)

Many environmental law articles about China focus on pollution control, yet few deal with natural resources law and conservation. (13) Part II of this Article provides a brief overview of Chinese biodiversity and conservation legislation, while Part Ill discusses the challenges facing biodiversity legislation in China. Despite China's legislative attempts to conserve its natural resources, and in turn, to protect biodiversity, Chinese law struggles to effectuate these goals due to implementation, enforcement, and public participation problems, and legislative tendencies to promote economic values rather than ecological ones. This Article suggests, in Part IV, that China can improve biodiversity legislation through increasing the public's role in conservation efforts, strengthening liability and enforcement mechanisms, improving administrative coordination, and developing an integrated legislative framework for future biodiversity and conservation action.

II. BIODIVERSITY LEGISLATION IN CHINA

This Part provides a brief overview of the legal regime in China as it addresses biodiversity and conservation. International conventions have helped create and promote biodiversity legislation in China, (14) but these legislative efforts face significant implementation challenges. As compared to the United States, China arguably has more legislation--including constitutional law--touching on biodiversity concerns. In addition, like the U.S., biodiversity and conservation concerns infiltrate a variety of natural resources and environmental laws. …