Thousands of delegates from around the world have come together for the 15th United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15 or NatureCOP) currently underway in Montreal. The conference is poised to produce a new agreement outlining global biodiversity goals for the next 10 years. And thanks to our supporters, a Sierra Club BC delegation was there to shine a light on the biodiversity crisis in B.C. and the urgent steps needed to address it.
Why did we send a team to COP15? Because the world faces a global biodiversity emergency, and few places in the world could contribute as much to protecting and increasing biodiversity as B.C.
The lands and waters of British Columbia are the most biodiverse in Canada, but after a century of colonial industrial resource extraction, they are also home to the most species at risk, with over 1,900 species headed towards extinction right now.
There are steps the provincial government could take to turn things around when it comes to biodiversity, including:
- Working with Indigenous Nations to enact a provincial biodiversity law that prioritizes ecosystem health and upholds Indigenous governance;
- Joining the commitment to protect 30% of the lands and waters by 2030, particularly highly endangered ecosystems like old-growth forests and grasslands, with local Indigenous communities playing a central leadership role;
- Enacting all the recommendations laid out in the Old Growth Strategic Review;
- And crucially, making sure B.C. matches funds offered by the Canadian government to protect ecosystems, address short-term community impacts, enable Indigenous-led conservation solutions and finance a just transition for workers.
COP15 is a huge opportunity to centre Indigenous-led conservation and assert Indigenous Peoples’ place as the most effective leaders when it comes to protecting lands and water.
Historically, conferences like COP15 are colonial spaces that centre the authority of non-Indigenous governments. Even today, Indigenous nations do not have voting rights at COP15, while colonial governments hold decision-making powers.
Why is recognizing Indigenous rights and governance important for biodiversity? For starters, Indigenous relationships with lands and waters are shown to support greater biodiversity. Indigenous Peoples make up less than five percent of the world’s population but protect 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity.
Indigenous knowledge is crucial for any solution pathways to the biodiversity and climate crises we’re collectively facing.
Why is biodiversity so important? Biodiversity forms the web of life we are part of and depend on. There are an estimated one million species at risk of extinction worldwide. Losing them would impoverish present and future generations and threaten the safety, health, and well-being of all other species, including humans.
The biodiversity and climate crises are interconnected, rooted in an exploitative system that encourages waste, pollution and rapid resource depletion.
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