The 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP14) opened on Saturday, 5 November under the theme “Wetlands Action for People and Nature.” Originally intended to be held in Wuhan, China, the meeting shifted to a hybrid format with events taking place in Wuhan and Geneva, simulcast in both countries. Participants attending the opening were treated to a striking and graceful performance of traditional Chinese music and dance that captured the energy of water and nature with its flowing choreography and beautiful costumes in hues of yellow, green, and blue.
Moderator Wang Guanghua, Minister, National Resources, People’s Republic of China, welcomed participants and highlighted China’s commitment to work closely with parties and the Secretariat to promote efforts in wetland conservation. United Arab Emirates, the COP13 host country, handed over the ceremonial Ramsar flag to China, transferring the COP Presidency for the next triennium.
President Xi Jinping, China, appearing via video message, emphasized China’s historic achievements in wetlands conservation since joining the Convention in 1992. He highlighted the proposed International Mangrove Center to be hosted in Shenzhen, noted the decision to designate 10% of national parks to wetlands conservation which will incorporate 11 million hectares of wetlands into the national system, and backed the convening of a conference of the World Coastal Forum.
Shen Yueyue, Vice-Chairman, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China, highlighted a new policy framework to protect and manage wetlands with strict implementation under the rule of law. She emphasized China’s approach to wetlands conservation as a holistic one that includes mountains, grasslands, rivers, and lakes.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that wetland degradation is one of the most alarming elements of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. She stressed that wetlands protection is critically important to meet the goals of the upcoming Global Biodiversity Framework and further urged governments to work harder to resolve the many outstanding brackets in the current draft of the new framework to be concluded at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) COP15.
Wang Menghui, Secretary, Communist Party of China (CPC), Hubei Provincial Committee, called wetlands the “kidneys of the earth” and drew attention to the 1,000 lakes of Hubei Province, including 100 near Wuhan. He highlighted China’s actions to improve capacity in conservation and governance and said wetlands conservation is not just a mission but also an act of civilization.
Bruno Oberle, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), underscored wetlands as the ultimate nature-based solution, lamented the ongoing need to fight for recognition of wetlands, and said the challenge remains to extend the Convention's successes to all our wetlands.
Noting that the Convention on Wetlands is the world’s oldest multilateral environmental agreement, Secretary General Musonda Mumba emphasized the opportunity to highlight the centrality of wetlands in current and upcoming meetings on climate and biodiversity.
Sarah Fowler, Chief Executive, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, lamented the loss of one-third of the world’s remaining wetlands, including some Ramsar sites. She also highlighted the opportunity to prioritize their protection at the upcoming meeting of the CBD COP15, noting the absence of wetlands-related targets and indicators in the current version of the global biodiversity framework.
For the final presentation of the Opening Ceremony, the Youth Initiative of COP14 celebrated the history and importance of the Convention and highlighted taking action to protect wild animals and places and to be a spokesperson for protecting wetlands.
Delegates will reconvene Sunday morning for a high-level ministerial segment in Wuhan with virtual connections to Geneva.
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