Here’s what happened at the Montreal UN Biodiversity Summit

After two weeks of representatives from 196 countries negotiating at the 15th United Nations Conference of the Parties on biological diversity, ​​there is an agreement on a Global Biodiversity Framework, the Kunming-Montreal Agreement. Countries agreed to protect at least 30% of global lands and waters, respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, protect places with high biodiversity, phase out or reform subsidies harmful to biodiversity, and create a fund to help developing countries protect biodiverse nature areas in their countries.

Canada made some domestic funding commitments to protect nature. This includes: $800 million for four Indigenous-led conservation initiatives, support for the First Nations Guardians Network, millions of dollars for ocean restoration, and a nature agreement between Canada and the Yukon. Frustratingly, it sounds like the long awaited agreement for federal funding to protect old growth forests in BC is still not finalized. Maybe in the new year?

It’s not perfect, and there’s more to be done, but this global agreement and the Canadian commitments are a big deal and a wonderful step forward.

During the negotiations, people from Montreal were joined by people from across the country and world to learn about how biodiverse places have been successfully defended, and what is really going on in communities and nature around the globe. Indigenous leaders from across the globe were standing up for the needs of their communities and defending nature in their nations’ territories.

There was a big march on a freezing cold Saturday two weeks ago, where hundreds of people took a stand to defend the most biodiverse nature around the world. I was lucky enough to be there, in my giant puffy jacket that goes to my ankles to stay warm in sub-zero weather, to represent my Kootenay neighbours, like you.

     

Two days later, I joined my colleagues from Nature Canada and the Climate Justice Organizing Hub to host a panel discussion and reception during the summit. Over 60 campaigners, staff, board members, and volunteers from conservation organizations across BC and Canada enjoyed an evening of learning and discussion. I shared about our newest deep canvassing program, where we are having conversations with people in traditionally forestry-dependent communities in BC about defending old growth forests, protecting clean drinking water, and the need for a law to keep our ecosystems healthy (read our 2022 Impact Report to learn more).

In the deep canvassing conversations, we’re hearing everyday residents wrestle with their internal conflict about having good paying jobs, while keeping nature intact. We’re helping them envision a new way of living in BC while defending what they value most. This discussion event helped us get more partnerships in the works with organizations in BC and across Canada to scale-up these sustainable land use deep canvassing conversations and make a difference in public opinion and the political landscape.

What’s next?

We need a law in Canada and a law in BC to make sure the most biodiverse lands and waters are conserved instead of up for future development and resource extraction. Now that Canada has hosted this year’s UN biodiversity summit and signed on to the global agreement, it’s time for the country and for BC, the most biodiverse province, to make laws to back up this promise to the world and its citizens, like you and me, to defend 30% of biodiverse nature by 2030 – for the people and for the planet. A biodiversity accountability law would be a way for current and future governments to legally be required to meet these goals, not just make empty promises. The good news is Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, signaled that an accountability law for biodiversity is on the table.

In BC, the last remaining old growth forests, which are biodiversity hotspots, are still being logged; clean drinking water is still threatened from industrial activities; and ecosystems are at risk of no longer being able to be the homes for important plants and animals, like caribou. We have a huge opportunity with the new Premier and his new Ministers to show them rural and small town British Columbians want a law to defend the amazing beauty and biodiversity for today and years to come.

What we can do together as Neighbours United

In 2023, we’re going to continue learning how to successfully have conversations with our neighbours in communities across BC to help them shift their beliefs to support legislation to make sure we can all benefit from healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. This deep canvassing program will be ready in the spring for volunteers to join our staff on doorsteps and phones to have emotional, empathetic, and authentic conversations with our neighbours. You can also get in touch with Premier Eby, your MLA, and cabinet Ministers to let them know that you want a law in BC to defend our biodiverse ecosystems. Calling their offices or writing a letter is a wonderful holiday gift to the nature you love.

 

Montana Burgess is the Executive Director at Neighbours United