The Hamilton Spectator
Let’s finally get to work on protecting nature
In December, the world united around a global plan to protect and restore nature. The resulting Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement (GBF) now presents us with a choice: will this deal for nature be remembered as a point of catalyst or collapse?
In 2010, the world adopted similar targets. But by the 2020 deadline, none had been achieved. Meanwhile, our grasslands have continued to wither, our wetlands have shrunk, and conservation support hasn’t kept up. We simply cannot afford to fall short this time around.
The degradation of the species and habitats we cherish impacts all corners of society, threatening the crops we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. And just as nature loss touches all of us, so too does its recovery.
To ensure we meet our targets this time — most notably, to conserve 30 per cent of our country’s lands and waters by 2030 — we must work together and collectively measure our success. All of society, united for our natural world.
This collaborative spirit is already showing results. Just last month, as a result of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) efforts to broker and fund an agreement between NCC, Interfor and the Province of B.C., 75,000 hectares of rare inland temperate rainforest in the Incomappleux Valley has been protected. This monumental achievement for nature could not have happened without trust and collaboration across sectors.
Incomappleux marks the latest in a series of conservation wins in Canada over the past year: among them Boreal Wildlands (Ontario), the largest private land conservation project in Canadian history; Kenauk (Quebec), which will host an open-air lab devoted to studying the impacts of climate change; The Yarrow (Alberta), where sustainable ranching supports conservation; and Kwesawe’k (Oulton’s Island), an island off the north shore of P.E.I., where NCC and the Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq are working together to secure and care for the land, which will eventually be returned to the Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq.
In each of these recent projects, NCC brought scientific expertise, creative deal-making, relationships and funding together with governments, industry and Indigenous communities to achieve impactful solutions for nature. Together, these achievements protect an area nearly five times the size of the Island of Montreal.
That said, these achievements are still not enough.
We now need to double down with urgency, because 30 per cent is no arbitrary figure; rather, scientists deem it to be the minimum required if we’re to halt nature loss and protect the very natural systems that sustain us. NCC has its own plan to double its impact by 2030, but we all need to step up to secure a nature-positive future.
Today, Canada is sitting at just under 14 per cent of the country’s land conserved. To more than double our conservation footprint, massive and necessary contributions will be required from all sectors. Governments alone cannot deliver the scale of change that nature demands.
We have ways to unlock conservation solutions. Governments, industry and private landowners can establish other effective area-based conservation measures on their intact lands. With sufficient resources, Indigenous communities who have cared for these lands for millennia can and are creating Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. And timber and other resource companies can be incentivized to relinquish tenures, like with Incomappleux. The options for conservation in Canada are numerous and varied, and each option needs to be explored. These tools must be promoted and well-resourced. They must be pursued by land managers across the private sector and supported by governments and funding. Most importantly, they must be used equitably, with respect and inclusion.
Only through this sort of wholeof-society approach can the resilience of all ecosystems be maintained, enhanced or restored. For millennia, nature has supported our lives. Now, its future depends on our support.