The Ambassadors for Nature initiative is one year old! To celebrate, H.E. Dr Ann Derwin, Ambassador of Ireland to China, hosted a seminar to commemorate the occasion.
Speakers included 王小平 Dr. Wang Xiaoping, Deputy Director General of Beijing Forest and Parks Bureau, 钱时雨 Qian Shiyu from the Urban Biodiversity team at ShanShui Conservation Center, Chris Liu, a grade 10 student from the Western Academy of Beijing and Irish artist Niamh Cunningham.
H.E. Dr. Ann Derwin, Ambassador of Ireland to China, speaking at the opening of the one year anniversary event.
We heard how the initiative has expanded from 14 original members to 32 today, all of whom have signed up to the Pledge for Nature at ambassadorial level, and about the individual actions at embassies in Beijing, including:
- The Irish embassy allocating a wild area with an area greater than 10% and, in spring, it was awash with colour and a haven for pollinators.
- France initiating a ‘green embassy’ initiative looking at reducing emissions and supporting biodiversity to align with the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Global Biodiversity Framework
- The New Zealand embassy piloting ultraviolet patterns on glass windows to help reduce bird collisions
- The Swedish embassy’s elimination of pesticide and herbicide use
- Indonesia’s planting of the embassy grounds using only native species
- The US embassy’s creation of a wildlife pond and planting of native trees and replacing of traditional vehicles with electric vehicles
- UNDP holding capacity building events for staff and making and erecting bird boxes and insect hotels
- Belgian embassy hosting a seminar for embassy gardeners to help share best practice
- …and many more!
The participants also heard about efforts to ‘export’ the initiative to the diplomatic network beyond Beijing, with efforts underway in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Dr. Wang Xiaoping thanked the embassies for contributing to Beijing’s biodiversity and briefed about the new guidelines for the management of parks in Beijing, in particular the recommendation that 10% of the area of parks in urban Beijing should be left ‘wild’ with minimal management, with the target figure increasing to 20% for suburban parks. This was all part of the vision to make Beijing “a capital of biodiversity”.
Dr. Wang Xiaoping, Deputy Director General of the Beijing Forest and Parks Bureau (which manages 71% of Beijing’s landmass) briefed on the city’s efforts to make Beijing “a capital of biodiversity”.
Chris Liu, a grade 10 student at the Western Academy of Beijing, spoke about how the school had adopted the Pledge for Nature and had teams of students leading on various aspects of implementation, including ‘rewilding’ an area around their ‘duck lake’, monitoring wildlife using infrared cameras and photographing and identifying plants and insects using an APP called “Seek”, designing insect hotels and erecting swift boxes.
Chris Liu gave an overview of actions to support biodiversity at the Western Academy of Beijing
Qian Shiyu of ShanShui Conservation Center, who arrived straight from a pollinator survey in the Botanical Gardens, briefed about the ‘audits’ of embassy grounds undertaken at the German and Danish embassies and how the team was working with the embassies to implement the recommendations.
Qian Shiyu from the urban biodiversity team at ShanShui Conservation Center
Irish artist, Niamh Cunningham, presented samples of her work promoting nature through art, including ‘tree stories’, short videos produced by members of the public about special trees.
Niamh Cunningham gave a thought-provoking presentation on the power of art to promote nature
During the discussion, attention focused on how to build on the year’s achievements, including the potential for an annual award to recognise and highlight extraordinary efforts, a series of interviews with ambassadors to explore why biodiversity is important to them and to learn more about individual embassies’ activities, the potential to design a short leaflet with the pledge for nature that could be translated into multiple languages to help spread the word, and the importance of involving diplomatic children in embassy initiatives.
It was wonderful to receive a written message of support from Clare Fearnley, former NZ Ambassador to China, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the Ambassadors for Nature and who did so much in the early days to build the momentum.
With the enthusiasm and energy from the embassies, there is no doubt that year two promises to be an exciting journey!
Thank you so much to Dr. Ann Derwin, Ambassador of Ireland to China, and her brilliant team especially Fergus Scott, for hosting the event, to the Beijing Municipal Government and ShanShui Conservation Center for their incredible support, to WAB for the excellent collaboration and to all the embassies for fabulous work throughout the last 12 months.