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Federal budget 2024 and biodiversity: sectoral funding to the detriment of transformative actions

If the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework offers a response to the systemic issues of the biodiversity crisis, is the 2024 federal budget moving in the right direction of implementing its goals?


The 2024 federal budget was tabled last week, and expectations were high for investments to tackle the complex ecological crisis. These expectations were all the greater given the budget's focus on intergenerational justice and equity, and Canada's early start to the fire season.


The fourth Freeland budget comes 16 months after the COP15 biodiversity summit held in Montreal in December 2022. This intergovernmental summit closed with the adoption of the new Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, whose ambition is to guide global and national efforts with 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. If the aspirations of the new global agreement for biodiversity are to be achieved, the targets and objectives of this landmark text must be translated into laws, regulations, strategies, action plans and budgets, at all levels of governance.


This leads us to ask the question: does Canada's 2024 budget provide the necessary means to effectively support the objectives of the Kunming-Montreal Accord? To examine this question, we have analyzed the measures in the budget that directly address biodiversity protection, but also those that may indirectly contribute to, or hinder, Canada's efforts in this area.


Much for the energy transition, little for biodiversity


While climate change is mentioned more than 50 times in Budget 2024, the word biodiversity appears only three times explicitly. Chapters 4 and 5 are sprinkled with incentives for clean energy production, demonstrating a desire to gradually decarbonize the Canadian economy, but overlooking possible financial synergies to counter the biodiversity crisis, which is nonetheless intimately linked to the climate crisis.


By failing to coordinate the response to these two crises, the budget as presented misses the spirit of targets 8 and 19(e) of the global framework, which emphasize that climate action and financing must be thought through and orchestrated taking into account their interactions with multiple ecosystems.


Significant funding for protected areas, but too little for the rest of the territory


In the new budget, the focus is on the creation of new protected areas. More than $156.7 million has been allocated over five years to the Parks Canada Agency to support investments in Canada's national parks, conservation areas and historic sites. Certain grants are earmarked for the following conservation initiatives:


  • The creation of the Pituamkek National Aboriginal Park Reserve in Prince Edward Island will receive $71.9 million over 12 years.

  • A new marine conservation reserve in British Columbia's Great Bear Sea will receive $109.6 million over 11 years.

  • Development of the Ojibwe National Urban Park in Windsor, Ontario, will receive $36.1 million over five years.

These announcements are part of the drive to protect 30% of terrestrial and aquatic areas, as stipulated in the famous Target 3 of the 2020-2030 Global Biodiversity Framework, but blind spots remain.


Protecting 30% of the territory is not significant if the management of the remaining 70% is disconnected from global targets for 2030 and then 2050.

The creation of protected areas is undoubtedly necessary, but this type of tool is nonetheless insufficient to meet all the targets and objectives agreed by countries at COP15. It is clear that in situ conservation efforts, even if they manage to account for 30% of land and water, do not erase the need for a systemic, all-encompassing and cross-sectoral approach.


The importance of cities and urban planning: not very present


The funding of the Ojibwe National Urban Park reflects concrete action by Canada to meet Target 12 of the Global Framework. The latter promotes the integration of green spaces into urban planning so that people can also enjoy the benefits that abound in nature.


However, other investments or incentives for municipalities would have been beneficial in achieving Target 12, and consequently protecting biodiversity, in a majority of Canada's urban centers and municipalities.


Biodiversity: a major gap in business incentives


Although the Kunming-Montreal framework postulates that the private sector should be an active stakeholder in biodiversity protection, the budget offers no funding to encourage this sector to play a leading role. Yet aligning corporate activities and financial flows with the objectives of the global framework could serve as a vehicle for the intergenerational justice that the 2024 budget attempts to promote.


A number of incentives are encouraging members of the private sector to turn to clean energy. The benefits outlined in the budget are numerous: countering climate change, boosting the economy, attracting foreign investors, increasing both the quantity and remuneration of jobs and, ultimately, positioning Canada as a key player in the energy transition on the international stage.


However, the variety of incentives provided does not seem to take into account the pressures that the development of the energy sector can exert on ecosystems, relegating nature protection to the background. These incentives overlook the fact that the quest for strategic metals and minerals, or the construction of hydroelectric dams, affects entire ecosystems, sometimes to the point of destruction. Reallocating land and water without integrating biodiversity considerations runs counter to the very first target of the agreement adopted in Montreal. While the benefits of clean energy in the face of the climate crisis are amply underlined, the regulating role that healthy ecosystems exert on the climate is not mentioned at all. As the Kunming-Montreal agreement makes clear, "biodiversity is essential to human well-being, to the health of the planet and to the economic prosperity of all peoples".


By bypassing the opportunity to offer business incentives linked to the preservation and restoration of biodiversity, Canada is ruling out a means that would nonetheless contribute to the achievement of targets 11, 14 and 15 of the global framework. These targets encourage the consideration of biodiversity, its values and its multiple contributions when planning national accounts, policies and regulations, including measures and incentives aimed at businesses.


Target 18, on the other hand, calls not only for an inventory of governmental financial incentives that have a negative impact on biodiversity, but also for their gradual elimination. Conversely, Target 19 stipulates that financial resources, both public and private, must be increased to ensure the implementation of strategies and actions in favor of biodiversity.


Project evaluation: better identification of systemic issues is needed


The current development of a Canadian taxonomy identifying "green" or "transitional" economic activities would benefit from integrating criteria related to possible impacts on biodiversity in addition to those on climate, in order to provide guidelines for responsible and sustainable investment in Canada accurately. The federal government has committed to reviewing this taxonomy in 2024.


Rather than going full speed ahead with an energy transition that may seem promising from an economic and climate point of view, a holistic global assessment, including biodiversity, would be a favorable avenue for more sustainable investments aligned with the global framework.

In this vein, Target 15 advocates the adoption of government measures that motivate companies to be transparent, with a view to encouraging the assessment and regular disclosure of the impact that their various activities have on biodiversity. Greater awareness and communication of the dependencies, risks and impacts of the private sector could help to shape more sustainable and just patterns of production and consumption for future generations. Having failed to seize the opportunity to position itself as a leader, Canada has opted for business as usual, depriving itself of transformative and beneficial tools for the long term.


Conclusion 


Unsurprisingly, Budget 2024 focuses on the well-being of the middle class, housing affordability, accessibility to health services and the development of the clean energy sector to create more wealth and more jobs in Canada. The echo of current events is palpable.


Unfortunately, by investing very sparingly in forms of nature protection other than the creation of protected areas, the federal budget is missing the chance to invest in structuring projects that could more effectively tackle the underlying causes of the biodiversity crisis. The financial, health and social costs of the unprecedented decline in biodiversity will therefore continue to contribute to the rising cost of living. Not to mention the natural, cultural and even identity-related wealth that will be lost in the process.


Funding for biodiversity is therefore deferred to future generations and governments.


Considering that the Kunming-Montreal agreement was adopted at the end of 2022, countries are in a race against time to achieve the objectives of this framework, which will expire in 2030.


The budget is therefore a missed opportunity to make a major effort to mobilize private players and all levels of government, with a view to integrating biodiversity rather than sectoral approaches. To achieve a society that lives in harmony with nature by 2050, in line with the vision of the Kunming-Montreal global framework, reinforced ambitions and major transformations will be required.



 

For information:

Laura Fequino, Policy Analyst

Workshops for Biodiversity


 

Other budget items related to biodiversity :

  • The federal budget unveils an allocation of $351.2 million in 2024-2026 for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. It states that the creation of these internship and employment opportunities is intended to engage young people "in the fight against climate change and to protect the country's natural environment". This initiative is certainly welcome, in the hope that these jobs will enable the crises to be tackled in all their complexity and cross-sectorality, in a holistic approach that enables synergies to be explored that can combat both climate change and biodiversity loss.

  • The decision to provide additional funding for fish stock assessment and recovery is in line with the articles of the global framework aimed at monitoring species evolution and avoiding overexploitation. Funding is also proposed to continue the regulation of pesticides.

  • The 2024 budget also allocates 190.9 million over five years to counter exposure to harmful chemicals as part of its Chemicals Management Plan. Through scientific research in particular, this plan aims to gradually eliminate toxicity testing on animals. Considering that pollution, particularly chemical pollution, directly affects biodiversity, this investment is necessary and will have to be renewed to counter the rapid changes in nature.

  • Announced support for alternative energy methods, to the tune of $3.1 billion for nuclear power and up to $500 million a year for biofuels and biogas, may have repercussions on land and water use if practices are not properly monitored.

  • As many other groups have pointed out, Canada is missing the opportunity to tax the excess profits of oil and gas companies, and is investing little in sustainable mobility.




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