May 22nd is the International Day for Biological Diversity. First created in 1993 by the United Nations to highlight the creation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, this annual event aims to increase the understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues around the world.
Ontario is an incredible place. We have so many different species in our province. And the enormous variety of natural habitats is just as great, everything from the Hudson Bay lowlands to Carolinian forests bordering Lake Erie.
Globally, this variety of life is under enormous stress. And we are not isolated from this problem. The loss of biodiversity is a real problem here in Ontario too. Habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, unsustainable harvesting, and pollution are all problems. In 2010, Canada met with nearly 200 nations in Nagoya, Japan, and agreed on 20 biodiversity conservation targets – known as the Aichi Targets – to be achieved by 2020 under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Ontario has an obligation to the world to do its part to help Canada meet international targets for biodiversity protection. In our 2012 Special Report to the Ontario legislature, Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario, we highlighted the need for the Ontario government to take responsibility for biodiversity, to develop a strategic plan to meet the international Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and to act immediately.
Since then, the Ontario government has released a plan, but not enough is being done (see the ECO’s 2014/2015 Annual Report). If Ontario wants to make a real difference, we need to take concrete action now. For example, the Ontario government should expand our system of provincial parks to meet the 17% conservation target by 2020 – right now protected areas only cover 10% of our land. Canada has reaffirmed that we’ll hit the target, but now it’s up to our province to do its part.
I have great hope that we’ll do our share to conserve biodiversity in Ontario. It’s also the right thing to do.
For more resources on biodiversity in Ontario, you can check out the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s previous reporting on biodiversity.