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Chinese and African Youth Convene to Discuss Biodiversity in Strategic Development Sectors

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On August 6, 2021, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) in collaboration with Friends of Nature (FON), Global Environmental Institute, Civil Society Alliance for Biodiversity Conservation (CSABC), African CSOs Biodiversity Alliance (ACBA), and Heinrich Boll Stiftung organized an engagement between Chinese and African youth to discuss biodiversity. The dialogue, titled ‘Integrating Biodiversity in Strategic Development Sectors’, attracted over a hundred participants from Africa and China.

Aimed at building the capacity of the youth on sustainable conservation practices within developing cities and communities, the conversations revolved around how best they can elevate their understanding of urban biodiversity and collectively come up with practical solutions.

The session was moderated by Yuhuan Wu and Esther Githinji, External Affairs Intern at AWF, who coherently coordinated the seasoned panel of experts; Zhijian, Research Director at Cross-border Environmental Concern Association; Richard Hamba, a representative from Uganda National Urban Forum; Maatla Otsogile, the Coordinator of Society of Road Safety Ambassadors in Botswana; Roberta Annan, an Award-Winning Businesswoman, and United Nations Environment Supporter; Zeng Weigang, the Head of Patagonia(China Mainland); and Yu Menhjiao, the Nature Observation Project Coordinator at Shan Shui Conservation Center. The conversation was divided into three sections: Transport, Fashion, and Environmental Impact Assessment.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa has experienced the highest urban growth during the last two decades at 3.5% per year and this rate of growth is expected to hold into 2050. At this rate, the transport sector is bound to expand and there are a few lessons that the continent can learn from the largest developing country, China as it also hosts the world’s second-largest economy. Mr. Zhijian gave a firsthand account of the impact of the growth in this sector on China’s biodiversity.

“In China, road traffic has an impact on the ecological environment. There is an environmental impact on the route in that it is localized and microscopic and its environmental pollution comes mainly from various types of transport. Additionally, it leads to regional habitat fragmentation which harms the ecosystem services of natural spaces. This increases the likelihood of species extinction,” explained Mr. Zhijian.

It is important to provide input to Environmental Impact Assessment to aid effective decision-making concerning road developments and upgrades. Mr. Hamba agreed with these sentiments noting that cross-sectoral collaborations are key in mitigating the conflict arising from transport development and expansion.

Similarly, the fashion industry continues to directly impact global biodiversity. It is a significant contributor to biodiversity loss witnessed by overproduction and overconsumption of apparel. Mr. Weigang, a leading serial entrepreneur within the space, emphasized that the fashion industry needs to pay attention to biodiversity and climate change urging the necessity of recycling and reusing locally sourced materials.

Ms. Roberta Annan, a leading businesswoman and advisor to the UNEP emphasized that fashion is the second-highest pollutant right after fossil fuels. As much as leading fashion brands are trying to run carbon neutrality programs, this is not enough. She challenged the participants to push themselves from fast fashion lifestyles and shift to authentic fashion that speaks to our culture and significantly promotes local industries.

“Global fashion brands need to be conscious about how they acquire the raw materials, how they manufacture their products, and how they dispose of the fashion products. Just like most manufacturing industries, the fashion industries ought to shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy,” added Ms. Annan.

As the dialogue ended, participants engaged in a lively Q&A session that highlighted the need to do better to reduce our carbon footprint and learning from each other the best implementation practices that will impart behavior change on a global scale. There is a growing need to re-design cities so that they provide or support ecosystem services, and therefore reduce pressure on ecosystems embracing sustainable development as the key for our posterity.

The full recording of the dialogue can be found here.