IUCN World Conservation Congress recognizes need to conserve half the planet

Momentum building for dramatic scale-up of land and ocean protection

September 17, 2021, traditional unceded Algonquin Territory/Ottawa, Ontario – CPAWS is celebrating the approval of Motion 101 at the World Conservation Congress, hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Marseilles, France last week. This motion recognizes the need to conserve at least half the planet to successfully tackle the biodiversity and climate crises. Motion 101 also recognizes the critical importance of engaging with Indigenous Peoples and respecting Indigenous rights in all conservation activities, and supports a target of protecting at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030 in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Motion 101 was approved by an overwhelming majority of IUCN delegates representing country, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO) members of the union.

This motion was originally written and proposed to the Congress by CPAWS, the WILD Foundation, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), along with other NGO partners, and was strengthened through extensive discussions among over 50 other IUCN member representatives at the Congress.  With its approval on Sept 10, 2021, Motion 101 now becomes the formal policy of the IUCN, which is the world’s largest conservation union with over 1,400 government, NGO, and IPO members.

With 87% of countries and over 90% of NGOs and IPOs voting in favour of this motion, it is clear global momentum is building for ambitious, science-based conservation targets,” said Sandra Schwartz, National Executive Director of CPAWS. “The timing is particularly important as countries finalize goals and targets for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that should be adopted at an upcoming meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.”

In 2005, CPAWS became the first national organization in the world to set a goal of protecting at least half of our country’s land, freshwater, and ocean based on the scientific evidence that this was necessary to conserve nature. Since then, CPAWS has worked to encourage Canadian governments to set and invest in implementing ambitious conservation targets based on science and Indigenous knowledge and has worked with Indigenous partners and others to protect important land and ocean areas.

In 2019, Canada set a target to protect at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030 and committed to being a champion for including this target in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In Budget 2021, the federal government announced over $3 billion for investment in nature conservation, including for Indigenous, provincial, and territorial government partners and NGOs to help implement this commitment.

The future well-being of humanity depends on our generation taking urgent action to combat the dual environmental crises of biodiversity loss and climate change,” notes Schwartz. “The science is clear. We need to dramatically scale up the protection of land and ocean, in Canada and globally.  With this IUCN Motion, we expect nations to be ambitious and take action at the scale needed to deliver on this goal.


  • The protection of land and ocean is critical to halting the worldwide loss of wildlife habitat, which is the number one cause of population declines for species, in Canada and around the planet. In Canada, more than 600 species are listed as at risk of extinction.
  • 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 half of Canada’s land, freshwater and ocean is well-supported in the literature.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 have become increasingly important for domestic tourism as COVID-19 restricts 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 to championing 30X30 as a global target.
  • In October 2020, Canada joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, made up of more than 60 countries championing the 30X30 target.
  • Also in October 2020, Canada’s Prime Minister joined more than 80 world leaders 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 2021 federal budget included: Nature-Based Climate Solutions and Creating and Managing 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.
  • Read our Report Card on Canada’s progress in protecting its land and ocean.


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:

Tracy Walden
National Director, Communications and Development, CPAWS