What does the new biodiversity plan mean for Canada?

By Daniela Diz
Consultant, Conservation Approaches
It was a time of hope; hope that the world’s biodiversity, including marine biodiversity, could be effectively protected for future generations.  Sadly, eighteen years have passed and the current rate of biodiversity loss is unprecedented.  In the International Year of Biodiversity, the CBD’s tenth Conference of the Parties (COP 10) was awaited with high expectations.  During the last two weeks in October, delegates from almost 200 countries convened in Nagoya, Japan.
After extensive and nail-biting negotiations that threatened the adoption of a new set of biodiversity targets for the next decade, a great sense of relief seemed to permeate the room when a new CBD Strategic Plan was finally adopted. The meeting was adjourned at 02:59 am on October 30.
Last day at CBD COP 10 ©IISD-RS
The new CBD Strategic Plan set target levels for the next decade that call for the protection of at least 10 percent of the world’s oceans. The scientifically recommended level of protection is 20-50 percent. So ideally, at least 20 percent of the oceans and seas should be protected. However, with the current level of protection for the world’s oceans being less than 1 percent, the new targets do represent a significant improvement on the current situation.
What does this mean for Canada?
In keeping with the global situation, Canada’s marine protected areas (MPA’s) comprise only about 1 percent of its oceans.  So, while we do have our work cut out for us, the future is looking much less gloomy if we reach for this new target. And it is networks of MPAs that are needed, because they are much more supportive of biodiversity than isolated MPAs. And steps are being taken in precisely this direction in Canada. A new National Framework for a network of MPA’s is about to be released by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for comment.  If at least 10 percent of Canadian waters are strictly protected by 2020, it will allow Canada to meet its commitments under the CBD, and it will contribute towards maintaining the complex ecosystem services that life on Earth depends upon.
Also, as emphasized in a recent report entitled “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” (TEEB), it is not only marine ecosystems that will be the beneficiaries of such an endeavour. It will also benefit people and the economy!  The TEEB report makes it clear that the costs of setting up and managing protected areas (including the costs of foregoing economic activity) are more often than not far outweighed by the value of ecosystem services provided.
For now, it remains to be seen whether the 2020 biodiversity targets will be met. We still have a long way to go, not only here in Canada but also globally, to ensure that at least 10 percent of the oceans are protected. As an organization, WWF has been advocating for MPA networks for a long time, and despite the not so ambitious targets adopted at the CBD COP 10 last week, we are confident that this is a step in the right direction. So, how can we do our part in ensuring these targets are met? As individuals, we can encourage our governments to promote protection in our oceans. In particular we can support the establishment of networks of MPAs. So please stay tuned for DFO’s public consultation on the MPA Network Framework, and voice your support.
This reminds me of those hopeful days back in June 1992 in Rio, reinforcing my belief that striking a balance between conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is still possible.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © Peter Green