Amidst darker reactions ranging from cautious optimism to perturbation and anger, the 2018 federal budget’s inclusion of a $1.3 billion-commitment to nature and biodiversity conservation is a bright spot that has attracted positive support, if not outright praise, from a number of environmental groups.
Called one of the largest funding commitments to conservation in Canada’s history, the federal contribution over five years jibes with the previous pledge to conserve at least 17% of the country’s land and inland waters by 2020.
“Around the world, countries are forging ahead to reach these global targets by 2020,” the Nature Conservancy of Canada reported, adding that “this is a game-changer for conservation in Canada.”
A partnership of Indigenous and environmental groups heartily welcomed the move, characterizing the government as “walking the talk” and suggesting “the best federal budget for biodiversity conservation in decades” at last offers some hope for meeting the 17% goal.
Generally, the money will be used “to conserve more land and waters, preserve biodiversity, and protect species at risk,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said during his Budget 2018 - Equality & Growth: A Strong Middle Class address in the House of Commons on February 27, 2018.
More specifically, the largest chunk of federal change – $500 million – will go towards creating a new $1 billion Nature Fund in partnership with corporate, not-for-profit, provincial, territorial and other partners. This is meant to ease efforts to secure private land, support provincial and territorial species protection efforts and help build Indigenous capacity to conserve land and species.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is particularly pleased the fund “can be used for conservation efforts on private land, which are often at the greatest risk and represent significant gains for biodiversity.”
The government will provide $109 million over five years, starting in 2017-2018, to the Canada Revenue Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada to implement, administer and enforce the federal carbon pollution pricing system. As well, the government proposes to make available $20 million over five years, starting in 2018-2019, through Environment and Climate Change Canada to fulfill the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change commitment to engage experts to assess the effectiveness of its measures and identify best practices.
Mitigating the impact of extreme weather events, like wildfires and flooding, is central to yet another funding promise in the 2018 budget. Starting in 2018-2019, approximately $120 million in activities and investments through Environment and Climate Change Canada will help adapt Canada’s weather and water services to climate change and provide protection from the impact of extreme weather events.
Insurance Bureau of Canada voiced its support of the commitment, noting that smart investments in mitigation and adaptation, and introducing stronger environmental frameworks, will help limit damage from severe weather that is already costing Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Building on prior investments, the 2018 budget also reiterates Ottawa’s commitment to clean and safe drinking water on reserve. Beginning in 2018-2019, the budget proposes an extra $172.6 million over three years – $102 million in 2018-2019, $50 million in 2019-2020 and $21 million in 2020-2021 – to improve access to clean and safe drinking water. (Ottawa’s 2016 budget proposed a total of $1.8 billion over five years to support water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities.)
The government will also invest about $1 billion over five years to support the proposed new impact assessment system and Canadian Energy Regulator, increase scientific capacity in federal departments and agencies, implement the changes required to protect water, fish and navigation, and increase Indigenous and public participation.