Prospective land and ocean protected areas identified but governments must act quickly, collaborate with Indigenous partners
June 16, 2022, traditional unceded Algonquin Territory/Ottawa, Ontario – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has for the first time released a report that sets out a pathway to get the country to within striking distance of its commitment to safeguard 30% of land and ocean in Canada by the end of the decade. Success depends on greater political will and faster action by governments to implement existing land and ocean protection projects and pursue new opportunities, in particular Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.
This report, Roadmap to 2030: Delivering on Canada’s Land and Ocean Protection Targets, identifies dozens of opportunities for protection across Canada, both on land and in the ocean, that include ongoing or already committed-to land use and/or conservation planning processes, as well as Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. If all the prospective sites are approved and designated by 2030, the country would more than double currently protected land from 13.5% to 29.3% – just shy of the 30% target – and marine protected areas would increase from 13.9% to 30.4% – surpassing the 30% target.
The CPAWS report shows seven key provinces and territories – Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia – are home to the largest combined area of prospective protected terrestrial sites. Canada’s chance at keeping its global promise depends on their political will, long-term financial commitment, and willingness to prioritize Indigenous-led conservation.
For ocean, conservation opportunities exist across Canada’s Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts, with success depending on collaboration with Indigenous partners and political will across governmental departments and agencies to meet targets and ensure quality protection.
According to this analysis, a very large proportion of the potential areas for conservation being considered are Indigenous-led initiatives. This sets a high bar for federal, provincial, and territorial governments to prioritize engagement with Indigenous Nations in the important work of halting and reversing biodiversity loss in Canada.
Consistent with past findings in CPAWS’ 2021 Report Card, the new Roadmap points to the biggest challenges being a lack of political will from provinces and territories in key areas of opportunity across the country for terrestrial conservation. The lack of permanent funding to support protection of these areas in the long term remains an issue for both land and ocean conservation.
“Although we’re seeing major progress on terrestrial conservation in places like Quebec and the Yukon, many provinces and territories haven’t stepped up to the plate to support the creation of new protected areas, and that’s presenting a tremendous barrier in moving this work forward,” says Sandra Schwartz, CPAWS National Executive Director.
“With the ambition and leadership we’re witnessing from Indigenous communities, and commitments in place from the federal government to fund and support this critical work, what’s urgently needed at this point is a significant shift in how effectively – and how quickly – all relevant agencies and governance partners are engaging and collaborating on conservation,” adds Schwartz.
Overarching recommendations identified in the Roadmap include:
- Committing to help deliver on the 30% target and advancing existing land and ocean conservation opportunities, including protected area proposals and land use planning processes, with Indigenous-led initiatives as a priority.
- Setting ambitious jurisdictional targets to achieve 30% protection, starting the planning now to identify additional areas to meet the targets, and creating a path forward to reach commitments.
- Focusing not only on how much land and ocean is conserved, but also on which areas to protect – such as areas of high biodiversity and those that are home to species at risk, and ensuring that sites have comprehensive and long-term protection.
- Increasing funding to match ambition, including committing significant, permanent funding to support the establishment and long-term management of protected land and ocean areas across the country.
The Roadmap also highlights important federal commitments that will be key drivers in protecting more land and ocean in Canada, including a $3.2B investment in nature conservation in the 2021 federal budget and a commitment to create 10 new National Parks, 15 new National Urban Parks, and 10 new National Marine Conservation Areas.
“Considering the global importance of the ecosystems and species found in Canada, there’s a risk to nature around the world if we can’t pull together on this before it’s too late. We need to get started now on the work to deliver much-needed changes in how we approach collaboration on conservation, and in how we plan for the future,” says Schwartz. “If we can get provinces and territories on the same page on the critical importance of this work and of prioritizing Indigenous-led conservation, Canada will be well-positioned for a successful, nature-positive future.”
Canada and almost 100 other nations have joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, to champion a global target of protecting at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030. This target is expected to be adopted as a key part of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to approve this Fall.
- In May 2022, CPAWS launched a nationwide campaign to advocate for the movement to protect 30% of land and ocean in Canada by 2030. We are calling on Canadians to take action in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change by urging governments to protect Canada’s natural spaces. Learn more and join the movement by visiting cpaws.org/wecantwait.
- The protection of land and ocean is critical to halting the worldwide loss of wildlife and natural habitats, which is the number-one cause of population declines for species, in Canada and around the world. More than 600 species are listed as at-risk of extinction in Canada.
- Evidence shows that a minimum of 30% and up to 70% or more of land and ocean ecosystems need to be protected to sustain a healthy planet and secure essential ecosystem services for people. CPAWS’ long-standing goal of protecting at least half of Canada’s land, freshwater, and ocean is well-supported in the literature.
- Global biodiversity loss, happening up to a thousand times faster than the background rate, threatens life on Earth and is now a top-five threat facing the global economy, according to the World Economic Forum. Recent estimates by the insurance firm Swiss Re suggest more than half of the global GDP – $42 trillion USD – depends on high-functioning biodiversity and ecosystems.
- Effective Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a key component of a strong Blue Economy. Recent studies show that protecting 30% of the ocean in effective and well-managed MPAs can restore ocean health and produce an economic return on investments of ten-to-one.
- Parks and related visitor spending support 64,000 jobs in Canada, generate a return of six-to-one in GDP, and return 44% of government investment back in taxes. Canada’s parks and protected areas became increasingly important for domestic tourism as COVID-19 restricted international travel.
- In June 2021, Leaders of G7 nations, including Canada, approved a Nature Compact in which they commit to a global mission to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, including by protecting at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030 in their own countries and championing 30X30 as a global target.
- In June 2020, Canada joined the Global Ocean Alliance and committed to protecting 30% of its ocean by 2030.
- In October 2020, Canada joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, made up of almost 100 countries championing the 30X30 target.
- Also in October 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined other world leaders (currently 93) in signing the Leader’s Pledge for Nature, which includes commitments to put nature and climate at the heart of COVID-19 recovery strategies and investments.
- The Green Budget Coalition (GBC) includes 25 leading environmental organizations in Canada that analyze environmental sustainability issues and provide fiscal and budgetary recommendations to the federal government. Feature recommendations for nature and biodiversity conservation for the 2022 federal budget included Permanent Funding for Protected Areas, including Indigenous protected areas and Guardians programs, among other complementary nature conservation recommendations.
- Read our backgrounder on the Economic Benefits of Protecting Nature in Canada.
- Read our April 2021 news release welcoming the largest Canadian investment ever in nature as part of Budget 2021.
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The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only charity dedicated to the protection of public land, freshwater and ocean with a strong national and regional presence across the country. Working in a way that respects the sovereignty and leadership of Indigenous nations, we are focused on conserving nature to respond to the dual crises of accelerated biodiversity loss and climate change. Our vision is that at least half of land, freshwater and ocean in Canada is permanently protected to sustain nature and people for current and future generations. For more information about CPAWS and the work we do to safeguard Canada’s natural heritage, visit cpaws.org. Join our community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Donate today. Take action.
For more information, please contact:
National Director, Communications and Development, CPAWS