How did Nature fare in Budget 2021? Unpacking Historic New Investments in Conservation
This week, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled her first budget, investing billions for a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession. Thanks to supporters like you, the federal budget 2021 represents the largest and most ambitious investment in nature conservation in Canada’s history.
In the lead-up to the federal budget, tens of thousands of you sent letters, called elected officials, and organized in your nature clubs to push for ambitious investments in protected areas and Indigenous-led conservation. That effort has now paid off, with new investments and a clear recognition from the Ministry of Finance that the health of nature and of our economy go hand in hand!
The budget document makes the crucial connection by saying that:
“There is a growing consensus that economies need to be aware of their dependence and impact on nature. The World Economic Forum ranks biodiversity loss as one of the top five risks to the global economy, one that could have ‘irreversible consequences.”
While more funding will be needed to ensure Canada meets its commitment to protecting 25% of land and ocean by 2025, Budget 2021 has charted a clear path for action on species loss and climate change.
What are some of the highlights, and where do we go from here?
Canada championing ocean conservation
One of the biggest nature wins in the federal budget was ocean conservation. Nearly 1 billion dollars has been pledged to protect 25% of the ocean by 2025, safeguarding ocean ecosystems and the communities who rely on them. This commitment meets the expectations of the Green Budget Coalition, and offers a glimmer of hope for the ocean, as it faces increasingly severe threats every day.
New research shows that protecting the ocean can not only help reverse species loss and give fish stocks an opportunity to recover, protected areas also aid the ocean’s ability to trap carbon from the atmosphere. The ocean is the life support system of the planet, so it stands to reason that protecting it leads to so many benefits for us all. The budget also pledges over $600 Million to stabilize and conserve wild Pacific salmon populations.
Investments to protect land & freshwater go farther than ever, but is it enough?
As a centrepiece of the nature commitments, the federal budget invests $2.3 billion, over five years, to establish protected areas on land and inland waters. This will include support for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, Guardians programs, and action to recover species at risk while accelerating provincial and terrestrial protected areas. There has never been a bigger investment for nature protection, so it’s a milestone worth celebrating.
Despite this historic investment, the budget falls short of what was called for by nature advocates and the Green Budget Coalition to meet the land and freshwater component of the 2025 target. In the coming weeks, we’ll learn more about what proportion of the funding will support Indigenous-led initiatives and species at risk. With a gap between the investment provided and what we know is needed, we’ll need to work together and with all levels of government to find innovative ways to maximize outcomes for the protection of land and water, including how we mobilize for other resources as needed.
More honourable mentions for nature
The budget acknowledges that Canadian cities were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers to help municipalities make room for nature. The budget brought welcome news of $200 million over five years to help cities take on natural infrastructure projects including urban parks. This is crucial for making access to nature more equitable for racialized and other marginalized communities. Creating wildlife crossings and preserving other green and natural spaces will also be targeted, and this effort will support nature in cities across Canada.
The budget also invests in managing harmful chemicals and boosts funding for programs to clean up “ghost gear”, abandoned commercial fishing equipment that pollutes the ocean and harms wildlife.
Stick with us
This historic day for nature wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of our supporters and members, who helped push for this investment every step of the way. In a world where nature is increasingly under threat, this week’s budget announcement gives us reason to be hopeful, and reason to keep fighting for more comprehensive nature protection. Long term we know that we need to protect half of nature around the world to ensure a healthy future for all.
Sign up to stay connected, and learn about more ways to take action. Just as we did with this campaign, we’ll need your support to keep going. We look forward to the wins for nature that we’ll secure together in the months and years ahead.