In December, thousands of delegates from 192 countries gathered in Montreal for COP15, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
This is a critical topic for world leaders to be discussing. While they negotiate at the global level it is important to recognize that many of the actions that need to be taken to protect biodiversity will be done at the sub-national and local level.
Unfortunately, British Columbia has a deeply established culture in our provincial government that prioritizes the economic values of natural resources over protecting ecosystem health. However, with the direction given by Premier David Eby to his Cabinet it appears protecting biodiversity may be a priority.
Managing ecosystems for health and well-being protects biodiversity and is essential for maintaining natural functions so they can continue to produce the clean air and water that are necessary for our survival.
Resilience and adaptability are key features of biodiverse ecosystems, both of which minimize the frequency and severity of droughts and extreme weather events that are the result of climate change.
Protecting biodiversity has been, and continues to be, a priority for me as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Saanich North and the Islands. It will continue to be a priority in 2023.
Over the past year, I have been challenging our provincial government on their lack of political will to follow through on commitments to legislate species-at-risk and biodiversity protections. I pressed former Minister of Forests, Hon. Katrine Conroy repeatedly on the destruction of countless indigenous plant species with herbicides such as glyphosate and manually with brush cutters. I have presented legislation to ensure the provincial government is protecting bear dens.
The BC NDP’s own Old Growth Strategic Review panel recommends that the provincial government “declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors.”
The government has repeatedly promised to deliver on all the recommendations made in that report and consistently responded to my questions by asserting that their current policy protects biodiversity. Yet, they are reluctant to put those protections in law.
All it takes is to drive out of the city limits to see the result of managing for timber harvest value instead of ecosystem health.
Premier David Eby has appointed Hon. Nathan Cullen as the Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship.
Premier Eby has asked Minister Cullen to turn his attention to biodiversity. Specifically, to develop conservation-financing, implement the recommendations of the Old Growth Review and Together for Wildlife strategy recommendations, and to protect 30% of British Columbia’s land base by 2030.
These initiatives could be a game-changer for the protecting biodiversity in our province. With two years left before the next general election, Minister Cullen will need to work quickly to achieve these ambitious goals.
I am excited by the potential of these initiatives and Minister Cullen can count on my support of his efforts to achieve them. However, I will be watching closely, asking questions, and urging the provincial government to deliver on the transformative change they have promised.
MLA for Saanich North and the Islands
Originally published on the Salt Spring Exchange on January 19, 2023.