China publishes first Blue Book on ecological redlines

Over 30% of China’s land is now protected by ecological redlines, highlights a book published by the Ministry of Natural Resources on 15 August. 

Ecological redlines surround certain areas deemed ecologically important – including grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass ecosystems. 

Within these areas, development activities should be strictly prohibited so as to protect habitats, species and ecological services, like clean water provision and flood prevention. However, some human activities, such as renewable power generation, are carried out in some redline areas.

The Blue Book of China’s Ecological Conservation Redlines is the first of its kind. It summarises the history and methodology of the redlines, offers practical case studies and makes regulatory recommendations.

The State Council first proposed the idea of the redlines in 2011, to end decades of development which had destroyed many important ecosystems. 

Because the redlines are set and implemented on a government-wide basis, rather than at the level of individual (forestry, water, marine) departments, they have the potential to curb inter-departmental conflicts and discrepancies, Peng Yingdeng, a researcher at the National Centre for Urban Pollution Control Technology, has told China Dialogue.

The redlines concept began seriously influencing policies in 2015 and momentum grew from then. Many pilot programmes were undertaken across various regions of China. As the host of the COP15 biodiversity talks, China promoted the redlines idea and shared its experience with the world.

In April this year, the Ministry of Natural Resources announced the completion of the redline delineation process. Most important ecosystems now fall within redlines. The announcement emphasised the safeguarding of vulnerable and crucial ecological zones, such as on the Tibetan Plateau.

According to the Blue Book, ecological redline areas now span about 3.19 million square kilometres (sq km), comprising 3.04 million sq km of land and 150,000 sq km of ocean.

By putting redlines around 30% of its land, China is echoing a key goal of COP15, to protect 30% of the planet’s land and 30% of its ocean by 2030.

Read China Dialogue’s earlier report on how the redlines policy could more effectively protect nature.