On September 28th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s commitment to protect 25 percent of our lands and waters by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030. Here’s why these new targets matter and a look at progress to date:
The new targets are intended to drive an intergovernmental effort to address the interrelated crises of biodiversity loss, ecological degradation and climate change. Canada has signed onto the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People with more than 74 world leaders, including the European Union, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
The targets build upon prior commitments set under the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010. Known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, these include a commitment to protect 17 percent of our lands and inland waters by 2020. Canada and Ontario are on track to fall woefully short of this target.
The targets are not solely about protecting places. Significantly, they include commitments to respect and promote Indigenous participation, knowledge systems and cultural practices in decision-making.
Biodiversity loss and ecological collapse can only be mitigated if we keep habitats and ecosystems intact. 30 percent is the bare minimum needed to support global biodiversity, and scientists are arguing for even more protection.
Protected areas also make economic sense. Biodiversity loss is one of the top five risks to the global economy. The latest study by 100 economists and scientists worldwide indicate that the benefits of protecting ecosystems outweigh the costs 5-to-1.
Progress in Ontario has been even worse. As we approach the end of 2020, we have protected only a measly 10.7 percent (about 11.5 million hectares) of Ontario – almost of all of it protected many years ago – leaving other provinces and territories to pick up the slack.
Apart from the recent news to create a conservation reserve on the south shore of Prince Edward County, there have been no significant efforts to expand protected areas in southern Ontario in recent years.
There are areas in Ontario calling out for protection. Ontario is not immune to the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, and now is the time to protect our ecosystems and species at risk, enhance community and climate resiliency, and embrace a just and green recovery. The Government of Ontario needs to honour its commitments to nature.
Marked on the map above are natural areas in Ontario that call out for protection. Click each point on the map to learn more about these special places. View the full sizeinteractive map.
Authors: Jackie Ho and Adrie Hung
Jackie is Ontario Nature’s Protected Places Assistant. Jackie started with Ontario Nature in 2012 as a member of the Youth Council and rejoined in 2020 in her current role. She graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in integrative biology from Harvard College, where she divided her time between tree-ring research and recruiting students into conservation work. She has worked on numerous conservation initiatives, from teaching in Uganda to mangrove restoration in Suriname, and has volunteered with the Toronto Zoo and Toronto Wildlife Centre. Growing up in Toronto, Jackie’s love for nature grew from frequent visits to the zoo and family road trips around Southern Ontario. Her hobbies include skating, baking, exploring trails, and spending too much time on public transit.
Adrie is Ontario Nature’s Protected Places Intern and Administrative Assistant. Adrie grew up in Toronto, but spent summers at camp learning about and growing a passion for nature. She shared this passion by volunteering and working at the camp for four summers. This passion drove her to complete a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Carleton University and is currently doing a Master’s of Environmental Science at the University of Toronto. In her off time, she enjoys snowboarding, camping and finding great new music.
Ontario Nature is a charity that has been protecting wild species and wild spaces through education, conservation and public engagement since 1931. We are there when nature needs us most.