Nature COP in Montreal – What it Means for New Brunswick
By Roberta Clowater
This December is an exciting time for nature action. All eyes are on Montreal for Nature COP – the 15th Conference of the Parties who have signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Government leaders from around the world are gathering to decide on a new plan to protect nature. At this pivotal moment, here is why this big meeting matters to decision-makers in New Brunswick.
All people living in New Brunswick depend on nature to support our cultures, health, and economy. Intact nature protects our communities from floods, storm surges and soil erosion. Wild nature secures homes for pollinating bees and healthy schools of fish.
Healthy nature is about balance and connections. We need protected areas so nature has places where it can just be NATURE.
Every year, expert reports come out with evidence that nature is declining rapidly – more endangered wildlife, fewer intact forests, smaller wetlands that can’t hold back the rising waters. Most of the problem is caused by loss of habitat from development, pollution, overexploitation and climate changes.
For those who are paying attention, these results point a huge blinking arrow to a big problem. We are out of balance with nature.
To help bring balance, Canada and hundreds of countries are rallying to protect 30% of the planet for nature by 2030. This number and deadline give governments a sense of urgency. A target makes nature a priority for action and motivates us to achieve what we said we would do.
Canada is not even half-way there. We all have work to do to get this done.
Most decisions about how and where to protect nature happen in the provinces. Right now, about 6% of New Brunswick is strongly protected for nature. The New Brunswick government needs to scale up action to address Canada’s nature emergency.
In July, NB Minister of Natural Resources Mike Holland announced 84 new Nature Legacy protected areas. These new areas are a big step in the right direction for nature conservation in New Brunswick. Government plans to get 10% of the province protected by 2023. We need to encourage our government to do more of this!
CPAWS New Brunswick has an action roadmap for how to do this together.
These are 5 actions the provincial government needs to take as they go into Nature COP meetings:
- Secure all of the 10% protected areas legally
- Develop a plan to protect additional areas to go beyond 10%, including areas proposed by Indigenous peoples, citizens, and organizations through the Nature Legacy project
- With Indigenous Nations, create new ways to co-manage and jointly steward protected areas, and identify Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas that support Indigenous values and connections
- Engage communities to help steward and manage protected areas, and create jobs in a conservation economy, and,
- Adopt more ecologically-friendly industrial practices across the province, to ensure habitats between protected areas are well-connected.
For New Brunswick to do our part for nature, we need to make sure it’s not simply a numbers game. Nature and wildlife need strong long-term protection, secured in law. We can’t just claim we are protecting habitats and say the job is done.
We need to have refuges where American marten, barred owl and endangered Canada warblers, North Atlantic right whales and wild Atlantic salmon can thrive. We need to conserve the bogs that store carbon and absorb floodwaters, and the old forests that shade cold-water streams for fish. We need large areas of land and ocean to provide room for wildlife to roam for food, shelter and mates. We need to steward and keep an eye on these protected habitats to make sure they help nature recover.
New Brunswickers have told us they want nature to be protected, and they want to take part in this journey. Recent public opinion polls tell us that 80% of New Brunswickers want to protect at least one quarter of the province for nature and wildlife. To ensure nature and people thrive in the future, we need to protect much more land and ocean.
We know we are the generation that must halt and reverse the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss – and we can do it. We can’t afford to wait any longer to make change.
We all need to pull together to act on our shared responsibilities to nature. We need governments in New Brunswick to commit to even more ambitious goals beyond protecting 10% of our province.
As a society, we need to grab on to opportunities to understand and tap into all the ways of knowing about our connections to land and water. We need to embrace and empower Indigenous-led conservation and knowledge. We need to strengthen the connections people feel with wild nature, so we truly value our part in it.
All our voices matter. Let’s make the Nature COP in Montreal the turning point for action on nature. It’s time all our government leaders listen to New Brunswickers and take bold action to make sure we are living in a better balance with nature.