Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is calling for a “Paris Agreement moment for nature” after an alarming UN commission report found nature declining “at rates unprecedented in human history”, with up to a million species at risk of extinction within decades.
On a teleconference from a meeting in Metz, France, where G7 environment ministers were discussing plastics pollution, climate change, and biodiversity, McKenna said the report Monday by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) presented a “massive challenge”. National Observer says the report “put the inequality of environmental destruction into stark relief. It found that many of the areas of the world projected to be negatively hit by changes to biodiversity and ecosystems are also where ‘large concentrations of Indigenous peoples and many of the world’s poorest communities reside’.”
McKenna compared this week’s news to the October, 2018 IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, which set a 12-year deadline for countries around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. “This was like the IPCC report on climate change. We now understand the magnitude of the challenge,” she said. “We need a Paris Agreement moment for nature, and I’m hoping we’re leading to that in 2020.”
The G7 environment ministers “adopted a charter on biodiversity that ‘welcomed’ the biodiversity report and committed countries to ‘accelerate and intensify’ their efforts to ‘halt’ biodiversity loss,” Observer notes. “But while the G7 environment charter says countries will reveal their commitments in this regard to the international community ‘where possible’ before October 2020, it does not bind them to specific targets.”
McKenna said she was encouraged the ministers discussed biodiversity at all. “I would say there’s a sense of urgency because of the fact that it’s actually on the agenda,” she said, adding she was “very hopeful” the topic would filter through to the agenda for the G7 leaders’ meeting in August. Observer has more detail on the specifics in the IPBES report and related action in Canada.
Meanwhile, CBC says Canada will see the impacts of the species loss foreseen in IPBES’s exhaustive analysis.
“Canada is not immune to the losses we’re hearing about. It’s very easy to think that the things they talk about don’t apply here, but they do,” said Emily Giles, co-author of a 2017 World Wildlife Fund report that pointed to declines of 43% for mammals, 69% for grassland birds, and 20% for fish populations between 1970 and 2014.
“In particular, habitat loss is a really important thing that we need to combat here,” Giles added. “Some of Canada’s least-protected areas are also those areas most important to species at risk, and are also important for capturing carbon and storing carbon.”
“The current fight that we’re having between provinces and the feds around oilsands, pipelines, climate change and local environmental impacts…is not actually a fight that we should be having,” said Kai Chan, a professor with the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.
“While habitat loss is one major driver, another is our changing climate,” CBC states, citing Chan’s references to endangered caribou and southern resident killer whale populations, and to rapid permafrost loss in the Arctic.