Earth Chat

Building a shared future for all life




This coming Sunday, May 22, is Biodiversity Day. What is biodiversity and why is it important?

Biodiversity is more than just the number of species in an ecosystem, it is also about genetic and ecosystem diversity and underpins all life on Earth. We are reliant on biodiversity to provide us with fresh water, food, and many more ecosystem products and services. More than half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature.[1]A decline in biodiversity presents financial risks for most businesses.

Owing to this importance, financial institutions, corporations, governments, regulators, and think tanks joined hands to form the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). The goal of which is to develop a framework for organisations to better understand their risks, impacts, and dependencies on natures and in doing so, move towards nature-positive outcomes.

Unfortunately, the Earth is already experiencing unprecedented levels of biodiversity loss thanks to human activity driving habitat destruction, overexploitation, and climate change. The UN estimates around one million species are now threatened with extinction.[2]The current extinction rate is at least tens to hundreds of times greater than the average over the past ten million years.

We also put ourselves into closer contact with wildlife populations as we destroy natural habitats. Escalating anthropogenic activities will increase the risk for future zoonotic pathogen spillover events and possible public health crises.[3]Today, we are seeing more emerging and novel infectious disease outbreaks with increasing consequences from Ebola virus to SARS.[4]The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only shown us how disastrous outbreaks can be on our society in an increasingly globalised world.

Here in Hong Kong, the bustling city is home to a dense population of people and a wealth of native flora and fauna. Hong Kong owes its rich biodiversity to its geographic location and subtropical climate. More than a third of bird species and a quarter of marine species documented in China can be found here.[5][6]

During the lockdown, many have grown to appreciate country parks as a welcomed refuge, wellness outing and social gathering destination. Mainland China indicated national priority on biodiversity and nature conservation when it inaugurated its first batch of National Forest Parks in 2021.[7]Hong Kong, who had a head start and established country park system since 1976[8]and enacted a New Nature Conservation Policy in 2004,[9]should continue to showcase "No Net-Loss" in biodiversity and eco-habitat to protect its green legacy.

And yet, the notion of encroaching into country park space for housing development is raised by some stakeholders. Compared to tapping into the countryside, it is more rational to exploit existing built-up areas. After all, the government is sitting on between 1,500 to 1,900 hectares of underutilised brownfields that can be readily converted.[10]

In preserving nature, Hong Kong has to pursue sustainable development, not the oxymoron that is sustainable growth. Instead of encroaching further into the precious green space, the government should free up and rehabilitate brownfield sites for development. Going beyond the boundaries of the city, Hong Kong should embrace the TNFD framework, positioning the city as a true green financial centre and transitioning towards nature-positive economies.

This is the green legacy that Hong Kong should proudly leave behind for its future generations.

"Support Friends of the Earth (HK)’s Tree Planting to enhance Hong Kong's Biodiversity"

Tree Planting Challenge webpage: https://bit.ly/3rOdkKY




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