Nature Canada

Bob Peart: Putting nature first at the Nature Champions Summit

As the Board Chair, I had the privilege of representing Nature Canada at the recent Nature Champions Summit in Montreal, hosted by Environment Canada.

The Summit was the first of a series of global meetings designed to build momentum toward a critical Biodiversity Convention in late 2020 when leaders from 190 countries will convene to set new global targets for protecting nature and combatting climate change.

It was quite sobering to sit and listen to speaker after speaker from around the world outline the challenges facing the planet and the natural systems that support life. I was reminded that in my lifetime the world’s wildlife populations have declined 60%. Currently in Canada there are about 500 species of plants and animals facing extinction. Not good news!

Yet these same speakers – champions from the Indigenous, industry, philanthropy, scientific, environmental and government communities – spoke hopefully about how we can reduce our use of carbon and control pollution. They provided many examples of nature’s remarkable resiliency against seemingly insurmountable odds when given a chance.


Nature Canada’s role

It’s clear – to turn this situation around nature needs our help. Everyone and all levels of government must commit to a new path and a set of actions that place nature’s needs at the heart of all we do.

That is why Nature Canada’s programs to defend Canada’s wildlife and protect the lands and oceans where they live is so critical. These programs focus on building a Canada-wide Nature Network that encourages the public to be more involved, working to encourage strong environmental laws and, perhaps most importantly, focusing on getting children and their families back outside to enjoy and play in the outdoors.

One phrase repeated at the conference was, “we need the planet, the planet doesn’t need us.” But I think it is more than that. If you want your children to see salmon returning to spawn, to experience the true majesty of big old trees, to watch warblers flitting around in the treetops and to be awed by a pod of whales breaching – then we must press our governments to ensure that they are putting nature first in all their decision-making.

There is growing support for the goal to have 30% of the planet’s lands, oceans and waters set aside for nature by 2030. The global effect of climate change is staggering. The science is clear that preserving nature benefits our climate efforts and reduces carbon emissions. That is why an ambitious global campaign to save the oceans, to protect key landscapes and to stabilize the climate is so critical.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the summit on  Thursday, protecting nature and reducing climate change is the challenge of the next two decades.

It hurts me to see what we have done to harm nature; yet it is hopeful to know that there are so many global nature champions out there working like crazy to put nature first and to give the natural world the chance to recover.

The commitment of the federal government to protect 17% of our lands and 10% of our oceans by the year 2020 deserves our full support, and that is why much of the effort of Nature Canada over the next few years will be to help the government do just that.

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.