SDG 15: Life on land
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The environmental perspective
As the second-largest country in the world, Canada is one of the few countries that still has relatively large, healthy natural ecosystems. Understanding that economic development, combined with a changing climate, are putting growing pressure on our natural environment, this chapter focuses on protecting and recovering species and conserving Canadian biodiversity.
This focus directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services; 15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally; 15.3: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil; 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species; and 15.8: By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.
Canada's forests, wetlands, prairies and tundra provide habitat that all organisms, including humans, need to thrive. Conserving these natural spaces helps promote biodiversity and maintain the ecosystem services that we rely on for our well-being, such as irrigating and pollinating crops and vegetation, controlling floods, and filtering air and water. Managing for resilient forests and other ecosystems also helps to mitigate climate change by sequestering and storing carbon, and improved land use can increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse emissions associated with ecosystems and their use.
Canada's lands and fresh water are an integral part of Canadians' natural and cultural heritage. In particular, many natural areas hold cultural, spiritual, and socioeconomic significance for Indigenous peoples and support life-sustaining activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering. Nature provides physical and mental health and other well-being benefits for all Canadians.
Healthy ecosystems also contribute to our economy, including through nature-based tourism. For example, Canada's national parks and national historic sites generate millions of dollars annually and provide thousands of jobs for local communities. Recreational fisheries, many of which are in inland lakes, rivers and streams, also contribute several billion dollars to Canada's economy.
Canada has a strong commitment to sustainable forest management. Forests play a central role—culturally, spiritually and economically—in the lives of many Indigenous communities across Canada. According to the 2016 census, 12,000 Indigenous people work in the forest sector, representing about 7% of the sector's workforce.
Where the Government of Canada is going
Mandate letters released in December 2021 outline the Government of Canada's direction and policy priorities. Selected commitments related to Sustainable Development Goal 15 are listed below.
- Ensure Canada meets its goals to conserve 25% of our lands and waters by 2025 and 30% of each by 2030, working to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 in Canada, achieve a full recovery for nature by 2050 and champion this goal internationally. Ensure that this work remains grounded in science, Indigenous knowledge and local perspectives (Minister of Environment and Climate Change; Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard).
- Work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners to support new Indigenous Guardians programs and establish new Indigenous Guardians Networks, and support Indigenous communities to build capacity to establish more Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (Minister of Environment and Climate Change).
- Help protect old growth forests, notably in British Columbia, by advancing a nature agreement with B.C., establishing a $50 million B.C. Old Growth Nature Fund, and ensuring First Nations and Métis, local communities and workers are partners in shaping the path forward on nature protection (Minister of Natural Resources; Minister of Environment and Climate Change).
How the Government of Canada contributes
Land and water-use change, climate change, pollution, natural resource use and exploitation, and invasive alien species threaten Canada's rich biodiversity and natural legacy. To combat these threats and protect Canada's landscapes, natural resources and wildlife populations, the Government of Canada is working with partners to advance the conservation of nature, develop conservation action plans, leverage nature-based solutions to climate change, and prevent the introduction of and manage federally-regulated invasive alien species. The government also works with partners to incorporate and reflect Indigenous Knowledge alongside western science. The conservation and management of some wildlife species require coordination and collaborative action across international boundaries.
Budget 2021 committed to invest $4.1 billion for nature protection, including $2.3 billion over 5 years for Canada's Enhanced Nature Legacy, to continue supporting nature conservation measures across the country, including Indigenous leadership in conservation. Taken together with $1.3 billion for the Nature Legacy Initiative announced in 2018, this represents the largest investment in nature conservation in Canada's history.
The Government of Canada is committed to preserving Canada's nature legacy of lands and inland fresh waters as well as its oceans. This includes strengthening protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitat through improved timelines for implementation of provisions for species at risk; advancing reconciliation through enhanced support of Indigenous leadership in conservation; and supporting healthy natural infrastructure and increased access to nature.
These initiatives will be further supported by plans to create new national wildlife areas, national marine conservation areas, national urban parks, ecological corridors and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Working collaboratively and in partnership with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, local jurisdictions, and the private and non-profit sectors will be an essential element of this work.
Enhancing the implementation of the Species at Risk Act is a priority for the Government of Canada. The Act ensures legal protection for individuals of federally listed species at risk, preventing them from becoming extirpated or extinct, and providing for their recovery.
The Government of Canada continues to implement the Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Terrestrial Species at Risk Conservation in Canada in partnership with most provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, and other partners. This approach focuses collaborative action on a national set of priority places, species, sectors, and threats across Canada. Since 2018, federal, provincial and territorial governments have:
- Collectively established 11 federal, provincial, territorial priority places covering nearly 30 million hectares in habitats and ecosystems with high concentrations of species at risk and other biodiversity. Actions implemented in priority places will support the protection and recovery of hundreds of species at risk and other biodiversity.
- Identified 6 priority ecologically important species (Barren-ground Caribou; Greater Sage-grouse; Peary Caribou; Wood Bison; Woodland Caribou, Boreal population; and Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain population) that are distributed over 567 million hectares of Canada. Recovering priority species and their habitats will address multiple barriers to recovery and provide co-benefits for species throughout their ranges.
- Initiated dialogue for 3 priority sectors (agriculture and the forest sector, as well as urban development). Collaborative action in these sectors will address common broad-based threats to multiple species and promote sustainable practices.
Further, the Pan-Canadian Approach is guided by commitments for increased collaboration between partners, evidence-based decision making, and improved monitoring and reporting. Together, the Pan-Canadian Approach is yielding results through strengthened partnerships, greater returns on investments, and increased co-benefits for biodiversity and ecosystems.
For aquatic species, the development of a Pan-Canadian Approach for the conservation of Aquatic Species at Risk is under development to guide multi-species, place-based and threat-based approaches to species at risk recovery and protection. Since 2018, as part of the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, 7 freshwater priority places have been identified across Canada, as a focus for targeted recovery and protection stewardship actions. In these areas, 36 projects have been funded that target 70 populations of aquatic species at risk. In 2021, 2 additional priority places in the Arctic and Southern Newfoundland were identified, along with additional Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk funding to support stewardship actions for aquatic species at risk in those areas.
Work is underway on a shared, national 5-year strategic and operational plan to support and implement the goals identified in a Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health. The government is also working to promote the implementation of the One Health approach to address emerging risks from the human-animal-environment interface.
The government sustains the efforts of Canadians to improve the health of Canada's natural environments and their respective species through transfer payment programs such as the Habitat Stewardship Program, Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, and Coastal Restoration Fund. The Government of Canada also encourages and supports organizations within the federal family to conserve and protect species at risk on federal lands through support programs such as the Critical Habitat Interdepartmental Protection program.
Canada is working with other Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to develop a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is expected to be adopted in 2022. Following the adoption of a new Framework, Canada will develop a domestic implementation plan, in collaboration with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments, and stakeholders. Canada is also working with Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Through these international, multi-lateral environmental conventions of the UN, Canada continues to raise global ambition for environmental protection.
Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework negotiations
International negotiations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework are underway and will continue until spring 2022. Canada aims for an ambitious and pragmatic post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to accelerate and intensify global efforts to halt biodiversity loss. Following adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, Canada will be expected to develop a national implementation plan covering all aspects of nature conservation and sustainable use within 2 years. Relevant elements will be reflected in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy at a later date.
Canada, through its work with the Arctic Council working group on the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, collaborates with other Arctic States and with representatives from Indigenous peoples in the Arctic Council, to address and support policy and decision making pertaining to Arctic biodiversity. The working group's objectives are to develop common responses to biodiversity issues of importance to the Arctic, including monitoring and research, and to communicate findings to promote best practices to ensure the sustainability of the Arctic's living resources. The Arctic Council is the leading multilateral forum through which Canada advances its Arctic interests internationally.
At COP26, Canada joined 128 nations in a pledge to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. The countries signed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use backed by USD$19.2 billion in public and private funding to help developing nations restore degraded land. In addition, Canada, along with 11 other countries, endorsed the UK‑led Global Forest Finance Pledge that aims to provide collectively USD$12 billion for forest-related climate finance from 2021 to 2025.
The Government of Canada is taking action to support sustainable forest management and an innovative Canadian forest sector. For example, the government has re-established the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers Climate Change Working Group to support provincial and territorial collaboration to advance climate change adaptation and mitigation through sustainable forest management. Meanwhile, the federal government supports innovation in Canada's forest sector through programs such as the Forestry Innovation Transformation Program, and supports increased Indigenous participation in ecosystem-based economic programs through the Indigenous Forestry Initiative.
Indigenous environmental stewardship
Indigenous communities are among the first to face the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss due to their lifestyles being closely connected to the land and reliant on subsistence harvesting. Changes in the distribution of plants and wildlife place pressures on Indigenous food systems and traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering activities. Traditional Indigenous territories and reserve lands are particularly important for species at risk and biodiversity, and Indigenous peoples have stewarded these environments and ecosystems for generations. Indigenous communities have been stewards of the land since time immemorial and they have managed or co-managed significant portions of lands in a sustainable way. Working with and learning from Indigenous partners is a key component of both reconciliation and biodiversity conservation.