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Environment

Canada Must Protect 30% of Its Land and Water to Avoid ‘Nature Emergency’: Report


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Protecting Canada’s land and water is of great importance when it comes to targets set out under Global Goal 13 on climate action, Global Goal 14 on life below water, and Global Goal 15 on life on land. Join Global Citizen by taking action to protect the world’s resources.

Canada needs to drastically step up its targets to protect its land and water in order to avoid a “nature emergency,” according to a new report. 

The report, which was released Wednesday by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), states that Canada must protect and restore 30% of all its land and inland waters by 2030.

In 2010, Canada agreed to a goal of protecting at least 17% of the country’s land and inland waters by 2020 as part of the United Nations' Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan. CPAWS is confident Canada will reach its 2020 target, but their report indicates that much more needs to be done.

“We’re almost at 2020, and Canada has actually been working hard to meet the 2020 commitment to protect at least 17% of our land and freshwater by 2020, and we need to keep working on that, but countries are now beginning to negotiate the next decade’s conservation targets under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity,” Alison Woodley, strategic advisor at CPAWS, told Global Citizen. “So in that context, and given the IPBES report that was released in May… it’s clear that there’s a nature emergency, it’s clear that we need to scale up our efforts dramatically."

The IPBES report warned that 1 million animals and plants could face extinction due to human activity.

“It reaffirmed that habitat loss and degradation from human-caused land-use change is the primary driver of the crisis, so that means protecting and restoring habitat has to be at the heart of the solution,” Woodley said.

Canada has both a responsibility and an opportunity to act as a leader in conservation, as the country is home to such a vast area of the earth, Woodley explained. She added that the federal government has shown its commitment to leadership in the area, having hosted the Nature Champions Summit in Montreal in April, as well as having invested more than $1.3 billion over five years in nature conservation.

But while Canada has shown commitment to its 2020 target, the report notes that the time has come to increase conservation targets, and to follow the evidence.

“Protecting 17% of land and inland waters by 2020 was politically negotiated as an interim target to motivate progress and was not based on any scientific studies or evidence,” the report reads.

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The report calls for urgent action, pointing to statistics from a 2017 WWF Canada report that showed that since 1970, half of all monitored species have declined. Of these species, half of them were diminished by more than 80%.

“As species decline, the capacity for ecosystems to provide clean air, water, food, climate stabilization, and other essential services declines as well,” the report reads. “It is in all our best interests, and in the best interests of future generations, for Canada to take swift and large-scale action to protect and restore nature.”

The CPAWS report outlines a set of 10 recommendations for Canada to take to become a global conservation leader.

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The authors ask Canada to acknowledge that the country is facing nature and climate emergencies, to complete all existing protected area proposals, as well as to confirm the new target of 30% land and water protection. Other steps include having all levels of government establish and manage protected areas in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, while supporting Indigenous protected areas.

“We have a big opportunity to lead and to show leadership,” Woodley said, adding that most Canadians support the idea of protecting at least half of the country’s land and water, which has been one of CPAWS’ goals for the last decade. “This is the scale of action which we need to be taking.”