Roadmap to 2030: Delivering on Canada’s Land and Ocean Protection Targets
Introduction and Background
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.
This Roadmap 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, including many 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.
Consistent with past findings in CPAWS’ 2021 Report Card, the 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.
CPAWS is committed to supporting all governments in Canada on their collective journey to protect 30% of the country’s land and ocean by 2030, and beyond.
Join the movement to protect at least 30% of Canada’s land and ocean by 2030.
Opportunities for Land Protection Across Canada
This report analyzes how federal, provincial, and territorial governments can meet Canada’s commitment to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030. It summarizes opportunities, challenges, and actions needed in each province and territory to implement this pan-Canadian commitment. Our analysis found that more than 29% of land and over 30% of ocean in Canada can be protected by 2030 by supporting and implementing existing land and ocean protection projects and opportunities, in particular Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.[expand title=”Read More …”]
This report demonstrates that achieving Canada’s land and ocean protection targets is realistic and possible if all relevant agencies and governance partners, including governments at the provincial and territorial level, demonstrate the necessary political will to deliver. The report also demonstrates the importance of focusing not only on how much land and ocean is conserved, but on which areas to protect and what measures to take to ensure they are effectively protected in the long term.
Protected Areas as an Evidence-Based Solution to the Nature and Climate Emergency
Habitat loss and fragmentation from human activities are the primary causes of the rapid decline of biodiversity and the resulting Nature Emergency, with climate change growing in significance. Well-designed and managed protected areas are scientifically proven to be effective in conserving nature. Protected areas also play an important role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, sustaining our well-being and the economy, making them a critical investment for ensuring a healthy and resilient future for all Canadians.
Increasing Ambition, Both in Canada and Around the World
Over the past five years, momentum for greater nature conservation action has been building in Canada and globally, with more financial investment, more ambition, and larger area-based conservation targets on both the national and international agendas. While this offers some hope, much remains to translate this ambition into conservation action to halt and reverse nature’s steep decline. The year 2022 will be critical, as countries finalize a new Global Biodiversity Framework under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Over 100 countries support a global target of conserving at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030. Canada has committed to implementing this target at the national level and has adopted an interim target of protecting 25% of land and ocean by 2025.
Where Canada Currently Stands
Currently, 13.5% of land and 13.9% of ocean in Canada is protected.1 The percentage of land protected varies greatly by jurisdiction, ranging from 4.5% of Prince Edward Island to 19.1% of the Yukon. Provincial and territorial governments will need to step up in order to meet the 30% land target, recognizing they are the Crown governments in Canada with primary jurisdiction over land and natural resources. Indigenous governments across Canada have consistently stepped forward with leading-edge landscape and seascape-level plans and initiatives to conserve their traditional territories, bringing together western science and Indigenous knowledge. Support for Indigenous-led conservation is critical to deliver on the targets.
After a slow start, Canada has made considerable progress on marine protection – going from less than 1% of its ocean estate protected in 2015 to 13.8% in 2019.2 In doing so, the federal government showed that ambitious conservation targets are achievable with strong political leadership, investment, and a willingness to take quick and decisive action. This effort also required strengthening legal tools to support effective and efficient conservation measures and, in some cases, developing new tools like interim protection. However, there are some questions about how well protected some of these marine sites are. A 2021 assessment by CPAWS found that the majority of Canada’s federally designated marine protected areas are weakly protected.3
The Path Forward to Meeting Canada’s Protection Targets
This report identifies many opportunities in each province and territory that, if implemented, will put Canada on the path to achieving its terrestrial conservation targets. Although the federal government has limited jurisdiction to establish terrestrial protected areas, and can only do so in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous Peoples, a federal terrestrial section is included listing opportunities and recommendations that are within the mandate of the federal government.
The report also highlights ocean conservation opportunities. Canada has already demonstrated that it can act quickly on ocean protection, and while the 30% target represents another considerable leap, the 2021 federal budget commitment of $977M means that Canada is now starting with far more resources and capacity than it has ever had before. Opportunities for conservation exist across Canada’s Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific coasts. At present, very large proposed and interim protected areas in the Arctic contribute over 8% to Canada’s protected area targets.4 Looking forward, particular focus should be paid to areas that are experiencing the greatest loss of biodiversity, including ecologically important and carbon-rich coastal and nearshore areas.
In seven provinces and territories (the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia) existing terrestrial opportunities have been identified that could get them close to 30% protection. These opportunities include ongoing or already committed-to land use and/or conservation planning processes, as well as Indigenous-led conservation initiatives. Although significant potential for area-based opportunities exists in Saskatchewan and Alberta, these opportunities are currently challenged by a lack of political will.
Although small in size and limited in public land area, Nova Scotia has been at the forefront of terrestrial conservation in Atlantic Canada, and in 2021 committed to a new conservation target of protecting at least 20% of the province by 2030. New Brunswick has undertaken a province-wide planning process to achieve its relatively smaller target of protecting 10% of its land, but its momentum has been stalled. Newfoundland and Labrador is negotiating a Nature Agreement with the federal government, which is likely to kick-start conservation projects across the province.
Conservation Targets Include Quantity and Quality
Research shows that at least 30%, and up to 70%, of land and ocean ecosystems need to be conserved to sustain a healthy planet and secure essential ecosystem services for people.5, 6, 7 There is also clear evidence that focusing only on how much area should be protected is not enough to deliver conservation outcomes and other societal benefits. The quality of protected areas is just as important, as well as ensuring the areas are effectively connected as conservation networks and that land and ocean areas outside protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) are managed sustainably.
Conservation Takes Time – Governments Need to Act Now
Delivering on the goal of 30% protection by 2030 requires ramping up action now, to allow enough time for planning that includes knowledge gathering and relationship-building, including in-depth engagement of communities, and other work needed to achieve successful and broadly-supported conservation outcomes.
CPAWS is Ready to Support All Governments on the Path to Protection
For nearly 60 years, CPAWS has supported hundreds of conservation initiatives and has helped establish protected areas throughout Canada. With this unwavering commitment to conservation, we endeavor to support all governments in Canada on their collective journey to protect 30% of the country’s land and ocean by 2030, and beyond. This report will help guide conservation work across the country by offering a list of opportunities in each jurisdiction as a roadmap of the urgent actions needed to deliver on Canada’s targets.
1 Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2022). Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/national-wildlife-areas/protected-conserved-areas-database.html
2 Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. (2021). Assessing Canada’s Marine Protected Areas. https://cpaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/CPAWS-MPA-Monitor-2021-EN-for-publication.pdf
3 Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. (2021). Assessing Canada’s Marine Protected Areas. https://cpaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/CPAWS-MPA-Monitor-2021-EN-for-publication.pdf
4 Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. (2021). Assessing Canada’s Marine Protected Areas. https://cpaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/CPAWS-MPA-Monitor-2021-EN-for-publication.pdf
5 Woodley, S., Locke, H., Laffoley, D., MacKinnon, K., Sandwidth, T., & Smart, J. (2019). A Review of Evidence for Area‐Based Conservation Targets for the Post‐2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. PARKS 25 (2): 31- 46. https://parksjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/PARKS-25.2-Woodley-et-al-10.2305-IUCN.CH_.2019.PARKS-25-2SW2.en_.pdf
6 Dinerstein, E., Olson, D. Joshi, A., Vynne, C., Burgess, N., Wikramanayake, E., Hahn, N., Palminteri, S., Hedao, P., Noss, R., Hansen, M., Locke, H., Ellis, E., Jones, B., Barber, C., Hayes, R., Kormos, C., Martin, V., Crist, E., Sechrest, W., Price, L., Baillie, J., Weeden, D., Suckling, K., Davis, C., Sizer, N., Moore, R., Thau, D., Birch, T., Potapov, P., Turubanova, S., Tyukavina, A., de Souza, N., Pintea, L., Brito, J., Llewellyn, O., Miller, A., Patzelt, A., Ghazanfar, L., Timberlake, S., Klöser, H., Shennan-Farpon, Y., Kindt, R., Lillesø, J., van Breugel, P., Graudal, L., Voge, M., Al-Shammari, L., & Saleem, M. (2017). An ecoregion-based approach to protecting half the terrestrial realm. Bioscience 67(6): 534–545. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix014
7 Baillie, J., and Ping Zhang, Y. (2018). Space for nature. Science 361: 6407. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aau1397[/expand]
Contact Information for Media Inquiries
National Director, Communications and Development, CPAWS