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REMARKS - Special Report - Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario

Tuesday, January 10th 2012 10:04:59am


Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Special Report  -  “Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario”

Legislative Media Studio, Queen’s Park
10:00 a.m., Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Check Against Delivery

Do we mean it when we as a nation make a promise to the rest of the world? Are Canadians sincere or is it our new practice to make pledges and then deliberately renege like we did in recent years with our Kyoto commitments? That is the question other nations are asking themselves about Canada’s role in global environmental issue resolution. On biodiversity we have another opportunity to reply to the arched eyebrows of the international community and there is an important role for Ontario in that process.

In 1993 the Government of Canada became the first industrialized country to sign the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement to conserve biodiversity and commit to its sustainable use. In 1995, the Government of Ontario affirmed its commitment to biodiversity conservation along with all other provinces and territories. By virtue of our Canadian Constitution, the Government of Ontario has a direct obligation to fulfill Canada’s responsibilities under the Convention on Biological Diversity within its territory because the province manages the air, land, water and ecosystems that support our wealth of biodiversity.

In October 2010, the world met again in Nagoya, Japan to further the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Canada agreed along with the other nations to a series of strategic goals broken down to 20 specific objectives called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These targets recognise that preserving our biodiversity is not a simple task requiring the attention of one or two government ministries. Rather, it requires changes in a wide variety of activities across many ministries. Success necessitates that those ministries become sensitive to their many influences on ecosystems and that they change their way of doing business.

In this report I have attempted to clarify the challenge that faces us by parsing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and identifying which Ontario ministries would have to be engaged and responsible for the achievement of each target. I have done this because, presently, Ontario is ill prepared to meet this challenge.  The Ontario government no longer has a biodiversity strategy. There is a Biodiversity Council outside of government that is pursuing a broader strategy but that group cannot assign the responsibilities of Aichi to government ministries. Canada cannot meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets without Ontario’s full commitment and engagement.  

Time is short. The Aichi commitments culminate in 2020. Canadians, and by extension Ontarians, made a commitment to the world on biodiversity at Nagoya … are we prepared to follow through or have we lost our dignity as a nation?