Local biodiversity action is just the start

Local biodiversity action is just the start

From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

Local biodiversity action is just the start:
From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

By Professor Leslie King, School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University

Biodiversity Action Agenda Item 1.3

Canadian governments at all levels must identify concrete conservation targets and priorities at local, regional and national scales through a process of bottom-up community participation and national-level identification of priorities to ensure local area-based conservation, and overall integration.

Where do we even start? Well, we already have several mechanisms at hand. The PLANETARY BOUNDARIES APPROACH to living within the earth’s carrying capacity, the AICHI BIODIVERSITY TARGETS and the CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY (CBD) provide some direction at a global level. And the Convention on Biological Diversity is developing a new strategy that will replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Known as the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, its global adoption is planned for October 2020. This framework is intended as a step towards meeting the vision of a world ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050.

These global initiatives, however, must be implemented at the local level and supported by regional and national governments to make biodiversity conservation a reality and to position it as an on-going process. The destruction of biodiversity is most acutely and poignantly felt at the local level which is why conservation actions and biodiversity promotion within communities have the most impact. But local actions need support and legal frameworks at all levels or they simply won’t happen.

Painting of the ocean floor by Leanne Cadden
'Ocean Floor', watercolour by Leanne Cadden

The Do’s and Don’ts for Biodiversity

The CBD Alliance in partnership with Friends of the Earth recently published the “Do’s and Don’ts for a successful global biodiversity framework”. With 19 “dos” and  9 “don’ts”, this document outlines several items that can help inform concrete actions for Canadian governments at all levels. The first “do” is to “have a strong principle-based foundation” followed by numbers 3 “a rights-based approach”, and 4, “full and equal participation”, guaranteeing free full and informed consent. These recommendations reflect the move to incorporate human rights into any global strategy for biodiversity conservation.

Other recommendations include tackling the root causes of biodiversity loss, including unsustainable production and consumption, and addressing biodiversity in all areas including urban and highly disturbed areas (no national sacrifice zones). Number 8 recommends “a whole

government approach” to mainstreaming a biodiversity framework to ensure that every part of government implements the framework. This will happen by setting up stringent regulations, overseen at head of state level, that ensure overall policy coherence and necessary linkages and coordination across all levels of societal organization, both horizontally and vertically.

One Canadian example of establishing overarching biodiversity frameworks for planning and policy is the approach taken by the city of Surrey, BC. Their official community plan is framed and guided by a biodiversity conservation strategy rather than having biodiversity as only one element of a community plan.

People on a boat surrounded by ice
by Jupiterimages from Photo Images/Canva

Supporting biodiversity protection and preservation

The sixth mass extinction taking place represents an unprecedented calamity and threat to humankind. Slowing and stopping the current alarming rate of biodiversity loss must be a priority and a litmus test for policy and practice at all levels of government and sectors of society. As a policy and action standard and evaluation criterion, we must ask if any action promotes or damages biodiversity and only act (guided by the precautionary principle) when the answer is unequivocally in support of biodiversity protection and preservation.

Without a widespread transformation in human attitudes to valuing and preserving precious biodiversity and the natural world, any government actions are doomed to failure. Perhaps the most important role for Canadian governments at all levels is to lead and model this transformation.

How can you make biodiversity count?

You can share the Do’s and Don’ts document as well as our Biodiversity Action Agenda with your local leaders. You can also encourage your local government to integrate biodiversity actions across their community plans, rather than situating it as a stand-alone action.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

– Aldo Leopold, 1949

About Making Biodiversity Count Series

In February 2019, the Biodiversity Action Agenda, authored by Women for Nature was published. It asks all Canadians to take immediate action on biodiversity loss as there is no recovery from extinction. As a 24-point action agenda, it offers a combination of actions, including low-hanging fruit as well as long-term systemic changes. Follow our blog for bi-weekly posts exploring each action.

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