The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s Reporting on Biodiversity

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In January, 2012, the ECO released this special report, Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario.. Click here for more information or to download this report.
Ontario's Duty to Conserve Biodiversity

Where we Stand in 2012
Ontario’s Biodiversity and the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993

The Role of Provincial Ministries
Conclusion

Appendix 1: Strategic Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Appendix 2: The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s Reporting on Biodiversity
Appendix 3: Selected Recommendations of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Relevant to Biodiversity Protection



A decade ago, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) began a concerted effort to highlight the conservation of biodiversity as a key issue in Ontario environmental policy. The ECO firmly believes that the conservation of biodiversity is one of the most pressing issues of our time and the Government of Ontario has the responsibility to take action.

2001/2002 ECO Annual Report The ECO recommended that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) develop a provincial biodiversity strategy in consultation with affected ministries, municipalities and stakeholders. Moreover, the ECO made the case that MNR should undertake a comprehensive assessment of Ontario’s current policies, regulations and acts and enact appropriate changes to conserve the province’s biodiversity. MNR responded that the ministry was not obligated to create a provincial biodiversity strategy, nor did it intend to.
2002/2003 ECO Annual Report Building on the call for a provincial biodiversity strategy from the previous Annual Report, the ECO encouraged MNR to develop a series of integrated, province-wide strategies to address key biodiversity issues. These strategies should target specific areas in which action is required to conserve biodiversity, such as conserving protected areas and natural heritage features and functions, protecting species at risk, and addressing the threat of invasive species; this approach also allows for an efficient use of government resources. Again, MNR chose not to take action.
2004/2005 ECO Annual Report MNR finally committed to developing a biodiversity strategy in 2004, releasing it a year later. This Annual Report previewed the strategy. The ECO provided a strong caution that a successful biodiversity strategy should clearly detail the responsibilities of all relevant ministries, describe decisive actions, contain quantifiable targets, and specify timelines for delivery. The ECO also suggested that a successful strategy should target program areas, policies and legislation that need revision to achieve its goals.
2005/2006 ECO Annual Report This Annual Report provided a detailed review of Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy, released in 2005. The ECO commended MNR for finally acknowledging that conserving Ontario’s biodiversity is one of its responsibilities. However, the ECO warned that a successful biodiversity strategy should not attempt to be all things to all people: its focus should be, first and foremost, the conservation of biodiversity. The ECO also commented that the Ontario government must ensure that this new agenda delivers concrete actions that tangibly conserve the province’s biodiversity. Relegating this strategy to simple rhetoric would be a tragic loss.
2008/2009 ECO Annual Report This Annual Report stressed that greater efforts were needed to conserve Ontario’s biodiversity. The ECO commented that there had been a distinct lack of new initiatives, beyond those that were announced in 2005 or earlier. In part, the ECO believed this inaction was attributable to insufficient allocation of funding and human resources; many of the small steps that the government had undertaken involved offloading responsibilities to third parties, such as non-governmental organizations or volunteer committees. In sum, the ECO was profoundly concerned about the lack of deliberate, systematic and coordinated government action to conserve Ontario’s biological diversity.
2009 ECO Special Report In March 2009, the ECO released a Special Report to the Ontario legislature titled The Last Line of Defence: A Review of Ontario’s New Protections for Species at Risk. This Special Report made a series of recommendations to the Government of Ontario to strengthen its legal, policy and program framework for the protection and recovery of the province’s species at risk. The first recommendation in this Special Report was for the Government of Ontario to establish a statutory responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the state of the province’s biodiversity.
2009/2010 ECO Annual Report This Annual Report illustrated the links between climate change and biodiversity loss, warning that Ontario’s ecology will be radically reshaped by the end of the 21st century. It also highlighted that Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy from 2005, itself a five-year plan, had expired and there was no commitment by the Ontario government to address this globally significant issue in the years ahead. The ECO formally recommended that the Ministry of Natural Resources lead the development of a new and reconceived biodiversity strategy for Ontario. Without question, a biodiversity strategy should specify program areas, policies, and legislation that need revision across all of government to achieve its goals. This Annual Report observed that conserving biodiversity is indeed all of our responsibility, but the Ontario government itself must articulate how it will systematically respond to biodiversity loss in the province.



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