The good news is that Canada still has 2-1/2 years to meet its commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to protect at least 17% of land and inland waters by 2020. The bad news, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), is that it currently protects only 10.6%, ranking it dead last among G7 countries, and well behind other large countries such as Brazil, China and Australia.
Being last means that there’s only one direction you can take, and that’s one of the reasons why CPAWS is striking a hopeful note despite the grim finding.
“In many ways, we have taken nature for granted in this country, but there is hope,” said Éric Hébert-Daly, national executive director at CPAWS, with the announcement of the publication of its 2017 report, “From Laggard to Leader? Canada's renewed focus on protecting nature could deliver results”. “As we start down this new collaborative path of protecting more of our landscape, we need to focus not only on meeting the 2020 target, but also on the longer-term goal of completing a protected areas network that will effectively safeguard wildlife and wild spaces for generations to come.”
The other reason for hope is that despite Canada’s poor performance right now, there are many protected area proposals across the country that are well-advanced, have significant support, and are ready for protection. The report highlights 13 that are well on their way and that could, if formally protected, demonstrate Canada’s commitment to meeting its 2020 target.
Protection is needed because biodiversity is under threat, in Canada and globally, because of the destruction and fragmentation of habitat. Many ecologists believe that biodiversity is a barometer of ecosystem health.