MONTREAL | TIOHTIÀ:KE | UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE KANIEN’KEHÁ:KA NATION — Today, at a COP15 panel hosted by Nature Canada, 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 many issues the nature community has been asking for.

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.

Guilbeault said 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. These include continued action to protect a minimum of 30 per cent of land and ocean by 2030, prioritizing 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.

“This is exemplary Canadian leadership,” Gauri Sreenivasan, director of policy and campaigns at Nature Canada said. “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 worldwide. 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 more than 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,” Sandra Schwartz, national executive director at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said. “This commitment builds on the work to protect at least 30 per cent of land and ocean by 2030, by addressing a broader suite of actions necessary to support biodiversity and fight climate change.”

“It’s 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 Peoples,” Jay Ritchlin, David Suzuki Foundation director general of B.C. and western region said. “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,” Reykia Fick, Greenpeace nature and food campaigner said. “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 per cent 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.

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