Canada and the Green Transition: Perspectives on the Way Forward

Chapter 16 | Canadian Biodiversity Policy in the “Last, Best Chance to Save Nature” Decade

[Click here for printable PDF]


Key Messages




  • It is increasingly recognized that effectively conserving biodiversity can be used to achieve transformative change to address other societal challenges, such as climate change, and will be required if people are to continue to receive the services and benefits that Nature provides.
  • However, taken collectively, the true value of biodiversity and its significance in influencing the health, well-being, and quality of life of humans has been ignored or grossly underestimated in Canada, with the result that biodiversity is pervasively and systematically undervalued in policy, economic development, and related decision-making.
  • The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework calls for a transformation in our relationship with biodiversity with a shared vision of living in harmony with nature.




  • The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy emphasizes that biodiversity conservation is a multi-scale, multi-jurisdictional, and cross-sectorial issue requiring cooperation with stakeholders and the public. However, to date, environmental policy and programming has been fragmented, with departments working separately from each other in ‘silos’. This approach discourages communication and collaboration between agencies or broader dialogue with stakeholders.
  • Canada is currently preparing a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan(NBSAP) for domestic implementation of K-M GBF. Unlike the previous NBSAP, it is anticipated that the federal response will be timely, ambitious, and reflect most of the global goals and targets. However, effective implementation to achieve the vision of the GBF in Canada will require support from provinces and territories.




  • Canada’s official response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995), was prepared jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments, it sets out strategic directions for the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s biodiversity; and it reaffirms government commitment to create policy conditions and associated research, monitoring, and reporting mechanisms in support of biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources. 
  • Many provinces and territories have used the CBD and the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy to guide biodiversity policy and conservation efforts, but these differ in focus and ambition – some provinces have no strategies.
  • All 17 federal, provincial, and territorial agencies have enabling legislation in place for the establishment of protected areas, policy frameworks differ greatly across jurisdictions and are often outdated.
  • There has been a movement in Canada towards the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) that are Indigenous-led and elevate Indigenous rights and responsibilities towards conservation.
  • Regardless of the province or territory or type of legislation, implementation action that results in the recovery of species at risk remains an issue across Canada.
  • Policy issues that contribute to failed efforts to protect biodiversity:
    • the value of biodiversity is not adequately reflected or mainstreamed in broader policies and incentive structures in Canada
    • there is no policy coherence – policies in place have conflicting goals, i.e., to protect and degrade nature
    • there is a disconcerting disconnect between science and policy when it comes to listing species at risk and establishing effective protected areas networks
    • To manage something effectively, you must understand it first but there is a clear lack of data on the status of Canada’s biodiversity




To achieve the goals and targets of the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, we recommend:

  • Mainstreaming ecosystem services into economic policy and associated decision-making, including supporting nature-based solutions (NBSs) to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and recognizing savings to the health care system through human contact with Nature.
  • Implementing a ‘whole of government approach’ to Nature conservation by coordinating interrelated international goals and targets (e.g., the Paris Agreement) and policies that currently encourage and subsidize the loss of Nature (e.g., forestry, energy, mining).
  • Empower Indigenous Peoples to lead in the implementation of biodiversity strategies at various scales, from the global to the local.
  • Implement education, interpretation, and outreach strategies, focused on helping the public learn to care about Nature so they might support the care for Nature.
Logo of the Balsillie School of International Affairs