Nature groups give high marks for new federal commitment to a high ambition action plan to halt and reverse nature loss

At COP15, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, raised the bar by committing to advance a wide-ranging domestic action plan to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada

December 15, 2022 – Unceded territory of the Kanien’keha:ka – Montreal. Today at a COP15 panel hosted by Nature Canada in Montreal, Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, committed to advance a wide-ranging domestic strategy and action plan to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada. Canadian nature groups welcomed the announcement saying the Minister’s remarks promise to deliver a national strategy that commits to “raise the bar” to deliver on a great many issues that the nature community has been asking for.

Photo © Andrea Koehle Jones, The ChariTree Foundation

While Canada remains firmly focused on ensuring agreement at COP15 for a strong global deal for Nature, the federal government has already committed to halt and reverse nature loss at home. Today Minister Guilbeault shared for the first time how the federal government intends to deliver on this historic commitment.

The Minister pledged that the action plan will build on existing Canadian priorities but also include new tools and approaches to bend the curve on species loss in the next eight years. This includes continued action to protect a minimum of 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030, a prioritization of Indigenous knowledge and conservation, and commitments to redirect or eliminate subsidies that harm nature. He will also seek support for a new federal biodiversity accountability law to drive implementation of the ‘Halt and Reverse biodiversity loss’ goal.

“Just as we can’t negotiate with nature, we can’t negotiate with our children’s future. The ChariTree Foundation is encouraged that Canada is taking the lead on accountable steps to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, especially for children and youth.”

Andrea Koehle Jones, Children’s Climate Education Advocate, The ChariTree Foundation

“This is exemplary Canadian leadership,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Nature Canada. “By committing to deliver a national strategy to halt nature loss at home, Canada is doing its part to leverage a similar commitment to halt mass species extinction world-wide. We are pleased to hear the Minister commit to a whole-of-government approach to align federal policies and actions with Canada’s biodiversity commitments…Canada needs to move now to put the action plan in place.”

Minister Guilbeault’s announcement comes on the heels of a call by 17 national environmental groups released last week, and an earlier open letter to the Prime Minister from over 200 groups last Fall calling for a plan to act on the Government’s election pledge.

“Environmental groups have called for an action plan to reverse biodiversity loss in Canada and we are pleased that the Government of Canada is responding,” said Sandra Schwartz, National Executive Director at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). “This commitment builds on the work to protect at least 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030, by addressing a broader suite of actions necessary to support biodiversity and fight climate change.”

“It is critical that all initiatives in Canada’s action plan to halt and reverse nature loss recognize Indigenous rights and title, and embed respect for Indigenous knowledge and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People,” said Jay Ritchlin, Director General of B.C. and Western Region for the David Suzuki Foundation. “The government’s commitment today  along with recent investment in four new Indigenous-led protected areas and a Canada-wide Indigenous Guardian network bodes well for advancing Indigenous leadership in halting and reversing nature loss.”

“We are particularly pleased to see Minister Guilbeault’s public support for a new accountability act that would require the federal government to meet its commitments to protect nature,” said Reykia Fick, Nature and Food Campaigner for Greenpeace, “Canada’s current laws are inadequate to meet the challenge of the biodiversity crisis. That’s why we need a new law that combines government accountability with strong respect for sovereign Indigenous rights.”

Today’s speech lays out public commitments to the action plan but without clear timelines. Canadian nature organizations expect the Government to develop this plan in 2023 and will be watching for how these promises translate to action in the coming year. Groups also look forward to seeing further elements in the plan, including a robust target for restoring 20 percent of all degraded ecosystems, expanded actions to reverse species decline, ambitious targets for ending harmful pollution, and a plan to expand public engagement and equitable access to nature for all.

Other Supporting Quotes:

“Legal reform from an Indigenous rights-based approach is essential to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Governments can talk all they want but what matters at the end of the day is policy that puts action on the land. We hope today’s announcement actually results in implementation of the biodiversity targets here at COP15 and we’ll be watching to make sure it does.” – Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner, Wilderness Committee

“Now, more than ever before, accountability is critical to ensuring Canada meets its obligations to a sustainable environment, to healthy communities, and to our Indigenous partners. Indigenous leadership is mandatory in rising to meet the global biodiversity crisis and in guiding the designation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas towards the realization of 30% of lands and waters protected by 2030, and we are encouraged to see this reality being recognized by the federal government.” – Stewart Guy, Executive Director, B.C. Nature

“A key aspect that was raised by panelists at the discussion today was that Canada needs to follow its existing laws to protect species at risk. Legal accountability is an essential part of ensuring Canada meets its commitments to protecting biodiversity. Today’s support from Minister Guilbeault for an accountability law is an important first step. But implementation is vital.”– Maggy Burns, Executive Director, Ecology Action Centre

“It is great that Canada is playing a strong leadership role in the UN negotiations of a global biodiversity framework, but the rubber really hits the road when governments turn promises into action on the ground. We welcome Minister Guilbeault’s support for a biodiversity accountability law, which would be our best means of delivering on those promises.” –  Anna Johnston, West Coast Environmental Law Association

“We welcome this commitment from Minister Guilbeault, and look forward to its application not just on land but across the country’s coasts and waters. Near-term decisions to prohibit deep sea mining and limit expansion of bottom trawling in fragile environments will show that Canada is serious in its efforts to protect and restore biodiversity. Stopping destructive activities before they start and using a whole-of-government approach will be key to halting biodiversity loss.” – Chris Debicki, VP Policy Development and Legal Counsel, Oceans North

“Minister Guilbeault’s support today for a nature accountability law is an important first step to ensure Canada can achieve its biodiversity targets. Just as the federal government introduced an accountability law to achieve net-zero emissions, we need a strong nature law developed in ethical cooperation with Indigenous leadership that holds governments accountable for reaching biodiversity targets.”– Melanie Snow, Legislative Affairs Specialist, Ecojustice

“We look forward to a biodiversity accountability law setting the course to meet targets, but also to ensure we protect nature for nature’s sake, and not only as a commodity for use as offsets to industrial pollution.” – Louise Comeau, Director Climate Change Solutions, Conservation Council of New Brunswick

“Minister Guilbeaut’s commitment to a biodiversity accountability law is an imperative. Enshrining our 2030 nature targets into Canadian law is exactly the leadership needed at this crossroad to give us hope for the future of birds and all life on the planet.” – Patrick Nadeau, President and CEO, Birds Canada

“Just as we can’t negotiate with nature, we can’t negotiate with our children’s future. The ChariTree Foundation is encouraged that Canada is taking the lead on accountable steps to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, especially for children and youth.” – Andrea Koehle Jones, Children’s Climate Education Advocate, The ChariTree Foundation

“At COP15, we’re seeing growing emphasis on the need for national accountability mechanisms to ensure that countries turn agreements from words into concrete action, at the pace and scale the biodiversity crisis demands. Federal biodiversity accountability legislation for Canada could bridge that gap between what’s promised on the global stage and what’s delivered at home – as long as it recognizes Indigenous rights, sovereignty and traditional knowledge. Implementation isn’t an abstract concept: it will determine the future of the forests, endangered species, wetlands, and waters that sustain us and bring us wonder.” – Caroline Brouillette, National Policy Director, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada

We are very pleased to hear the Minister’s commitments to halt and reverse nature loss in Canada. The commitment to a federal biodiversity accountability law will be key to ensuring that long overdue species and habitat protections will  be prioritized and achieved.” – Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director, East Coast Environmental Law

For more information, contact:

Andrea Koehle Jones | Executive Director and Lead Climate Education Advocate for Children and Youth, The ChariTree Foundation

info@charitree-foundation.org

Stacy Corneau | Nature Canada