Leadership from the federal government on biodiversity can provide a framework for action at the provincial/territorial and municipal level, as well as other sectors.
Protecting biodiversity is also an important component of Indigenous reconciliation: “Many Indigenous communities live in isolated and often highly biodiverse areas, where living in balance with nature is crucial for survival. As keen observers of their environments, Indigenous peoples often possess knowledge linking various phenomena to ecosystem change – changes in weather patterns, for example, or the impacts of new species coming into their territories.”
It is vital to give Indigenous groups a voice in biodiversity policy, incorporating their knowledge of impacted land and water, and working with them to design protective and restorative measures. They have been keepers of the land since long before other cultures arrived in Canada, and their generational understanding of the land and water on which they have lived can help implement effective solutions for long-term biological sustainability.
Missing Pieces for Biodiversity Protection
Historically, governments have failed to achieve biodiversity-related targets. At a previous UN biodiversity conference, held in 2010 in Japan, global leaders agreed on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a series of targets to be achieved by 2020. Not one of the 20 established targets has been reached to date.
Obtaining finance for nature and climate resilience continues to be a hurdle, especially for adaptation and nature-based solutions in developing countries – hence its prioritization at COP27. In 2021, Canada committed 20% of its $5.3-billion international climate fund to this challenge, but further investment from other global communities is needed to help with the cost of protection and restoration.
One of the core challenges with funding and implementing nature-based solutions is the underestimated value of nature and biodiversity: how do you put a dollar value on the economic benefit they provide? There is a drastic mindset shift required for companies and governments to begin considering nature as an asset. Municipalities in Canada have begun adding nature within asset management planning, but work is needed to fully quantify the long-term financial benefits of protecting and restoring biodiversity.
There is also a gap in the baseline understanding of biodiversity and nature-based solutions – i.e., in real estate portfolios or investments – in both the public and private sector. Business strategies, operations and investments often have impacts or dependencies on nature (and receive benefits from nature) that are significant yet not measured or tracked. Loss of nature and biodiversity are not often considered in organizational or financial risk assessments. To begin to tackle these challenges, an important first step is to understand what data is available and establish a baseline. There is a need to clearly determine your impacts on biodiversity and nature, and the interdependencies between organizations and nature.
Reasons for Optimism
As we continue to educate the world on the significance of biodiversity and nature-based climate solutions, and their direct relationship to climate action, we’ll continue to make positive strides in the protection and restoration of our natural assets. We are integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions into our climate change services where possible - which will not only help adaptation and mitigation, but can also improve biodiversity.
WSP is working with clients on how to consider biodiversity and nature-based solutions in infrastructure portfolio management and strategic decision-making. We have worked with government asset owners and municipalities and are seeing rapidly growing interest from clients which is only expected to grow.
The establishment of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework in 2021, following in the footsteps of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), will provide a framework to help corporations understand their nature-related dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities – and communicate these effectively to the financial community. WSP is also deeply familiar with both TCFD and the TNFD Frameworks, and is well-positioned to help clients understand and use them. As TNFD gains momentum, we will work with clients to understand the framework and the future of nature-related financial disclosures, including first steps to get started.