Nature Canada

How Did Nature Fare in Budget 2022? Investments in Nature and Climate Compromised by New Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Canada’s 2022 federal budget brought important new investments in Nature-Based Climate Solutions this week, but these are overshadowed by spending that threatens to delay the necessary transition away from fossil fuels.

Enhancing the health of natural areas is critical to stemming climate change and biodiversity loss – and Canada’s new budget delivers an essential and additional $780 million over six years to advance the protection, restoration, and management of carbon-rich forests, grasslands wetlands, and coastal areas.

A further investment of $470 million over six years will help improve agricultural management to reduce emissions and benefit biodiversity and soil health.

This builds on $3.2 billion in new investments in last year’s historic Budget to protect and restore nature.

However, Nature-Based Solutions alone are not enough to prevent catastrophic climate change or meet Canada’s commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss—they must be complemented by the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

A major concern is Budget 2022’s investment of $2.6 billion in a tax credit for technologies ostensibly designed to capture carbon but widely critiqued for having little impact on emissions and not being cost-effective at scale. Subsidizing oil and gas companies in this way risks perpetuating fossil fuel production and consumption. This approach, combined with the recent approval of the billion-barrel Bay du Nord oil megaproject, constitutes a worrisome setback for Canada’s needed clean energy transition.

There are also nature and ecological risks associated with Budget 2022’s new $3.8 billion subsidy of “critical mineral” extraction, much of which takes place in carbon-rich peatland and boreal ecosystems and Indigenous territories. 

The budget’s focus on Indigenous housing, children’s health and social services, and infrastructure, with investments of over $8 billion, is necessary and welcome. Continued and expanded Indigenous leadership in protecting and restoring nature will be critical to climate action and resilience.

Canada can and must leverage the carbon sequestration power of natural ecosystems to help the fight against climate change. Budget 2022 recognizes this – and adds to historic investments in nature protection and restoration. But nature can not do it alone. Canada must also make the necessary shift away from fossil fuel dependence, which Budget 2022 fails to do enough to advance. 

More Nature Highlights—but not at the scale we need

The Liberal government did use this year’s budget to make good on select nature promises made in their election platform. Notably, they’ve committed to $50 million in funding to protect old-growth forests in British Columbia, on the condition that the province match this funding and work with Indigenous communities. While more will be needed to support the protection of old-growth forests in Canada, this is a welcome start. The election promise to invest $1 billion in Canada’s Freshwater Action Plan, however, remains as yet unfulfilled. The budget only provided a small amount for bridging the program, leaving hopes for more ambitious investment in the future. Large-scale investments of $2 billion were made to continue the Ocean Protection Plan and some of those funds will be used to protect marine mammals from ship strikes, respond to oil spills in the ocean, and restore marine ecosystems.  

With the fire season just around the corner, timely investments were made to help fight and manage wildfires. The hundreds of millions dedicated to addressing wildfires is a welcomed measure as climate change will continue to cause more severe and long-lasting fires, above and beyond the natural role of fires in forest ecosystems. Especially notable is $37 million to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into firefighting, as Indigenous peoples have long managed fire in forested ecosystems and their knowledge is key to reducing the ecological impacts of wildfires.

Despite these positive components, the budget falls short of investing what’s needed for nature’s full recovery, and what’s needed to achieve the government’s important goal of protecting 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030 (30×30). Nature Canada, along with our fellow members of the Green Budget Coalition, have recommended the government make investments in protected areas permanent. Protected areas, by nature, are permanent designations – and to be successful, permanent ongoing investments are needed to support this work. 

Permanent funding is especially important for conservation partnerships, including with Indigenous communities. The certainty of adequate and stable funding supports needed long-term land-use planning with the assurance that funding for these decisions will continue past the typical five-year budget cycle.

Moving forward for Nature

Last year, Nature Canada supporters helped us secure the largest investment in nature in Canadian history. We have seen the power of nature lovers manifest as meaningful action to slow the biodiversity crisis and advance protected areas. 

Stay with us as we continue to make the case that nature is worth every penny: 

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Together, we can ensure that the federal government makes investments that are aligned with its promises to halt and reverse nature loss and protect 30 percent of land and ocean by 2030.

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