What Canada needs to deliver at COP15:
With the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) being held in Montreal, Canada has a responsibility to demonstrate global leadership in tackling the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, both globally and at home.
Canada’s rich biodiversity endowment gives it a particular responsibility to protect and steward nature. Our country has the longest coastline, 20 per cent of Earth’s wild forests, 24 per cent of its wetlands and almost one-third of its land-stored carbon within its borders. Canada’s forest, tundra and wetland ecosystems are home to the largest remaining natural terrestrial mammal migration, the Caribou, and provide habitat for billions of nesting birds. Yet across the country, these life-sustaining ecosystems are under threat.
The world needs Canada to deliver a win for the future of the planet by helping to land a global deal to halt and reverse nature loss and committing to an ambitious national action plan to achieve this at home.
Respect Indigenous sovereignty
Indigenous people are leading the global effort to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Canada must centre and support Indigenous-led initiatives in its work to protect and restore biodiversity. In order to do so, it must uphold Indigenous sovereignty and rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent to all development projects on Indigenous territories, including those intended for biodiversity conservation and restoration.
Address the immediate threat posed by the tar sands tailings ponds and develop a fulsome reclamation strategy
The tar sands’ 1.4 trillion litres of toxic tailings now sprawl over 300 square kilometres, jeopardizing biodiversity protection efforts in the area and preventing access of local First Nations and Métis communities to their territories. At the behest of oil sands companies, Canada is now considering weakening the Fisheries Act to authorize the release of partially “treated” tailings into the river:
● The federal government must prioritize ecological and human well-being and reject the industry’s request to weaken the Fisheries Act.
● The government must hold operators accountable for the seepage of their tailings by enforcing the Fisheries Act.
● A long-term plan to address tailings pollution must be negotiated by convening with the impacted First and Metis Nations, as well as oil sands operators and the Alberta government.
Photo credit: Garth Lenz
Commit to protecting the Great Lakes and putting freshwater protection and the climate ahead of the fossil fuel economy and the Line 5 pipeline
One of the largest threats to the Great Lakes and over 80% of North America’s freshwater is the Line 5 pipeline. The pipeline has leaked 33 times since 1953 and has spilled at least 4.5 million litres of oil into surrounding lands and waters:
● Line 5 threatens the waters, lands and way of life for Indigenous Nations of the Great Lakes and of all peoples living in nearby shoreline communities
● Indigenous Nations on both sides of the border support the closure of the pipeline
● The Government of Canada must stop putting the fossil fuel economy ahead of protecting the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater body – and ahead of inherent Indigenous rights and treaty rights
Commit to reducing pesticides that fuel biodiversity loss
Indigenous leadership is seeking high ambition from delegates on pesticide reduction (Target 7) to protect their communities, their lands and the species they rely on for their food, culture and sovereignty.
● Pesticide use has doubled in the past three decades. To reverse this trend, we need to drastically reduce high-hazard pesticides that negatively impact biodiversity in insect, soil and aquatic ecosystems.
● The EU and Quebec have demonstrated leadership in pesticide reduction. Canada must demonstrate high ambition on this issue at COP 15 to lead the world in protecting species and community health.
International leadership to curb plastic production and eliminate plastic pollution
Plastic pollution knows no borders. Plastics are found everywhere – in the air, water and food that sustains life. Canada will not achieve its goal of Zero Plastic Waste by 2030 without much more ambitious actions to:
● Curb plastic production and use, including expanding the bans on non-essential single-use plastics and eliminating harmful plastics and additives.
● Require and support affordable and convenient systems for the reuse and refill of packaging and products.
● Champion negotiations toward an ambitious, legally-binding global treaty on plastics that includes binding targets for the reduction of virgin plastic production worldwide and the elimination of toxic plastics additives.
BIODIVERSITY IN CRISIS
Urgent action is needed to halt and reverse their decline while recognizing and respecting that these areas are traditional territories of Indigenous peoples who have co-inhabited with the plants and other species for millennia.
Environmental Defence joins the voices of national nature and environment groups in calling for specific federal-level announcements during COP15: view our press releases