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Watt's Happening: COP15 a message of hope for life on Earth

My good friend Wayne Sawchuk, instrumental in the creation of the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, sends this encouraging report
Tetsa Waterfall, by Wayne Sawchuk, captures just one of the countless sweeping vistas to be found in the Muskwa-Kechika.

Wilderness and wildlife have made British Columbia a very special place, one of the most beautiful on Earth.

Yet nearly 2,000 individual species are at risk of extinction in B.C. alone, and around the world, more than one million. These numbers are staggering and unprecedented, and if left unchecked will cause terrible harm. Climate change, habitat loss, pollution and development are causing this very real threat.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the sum of all living things on planet Earth. The ways they are connected and interact create the complex web of life that we all rely on for food, clean air and water. Hurt biodiversity and we hurt our selves. That is why the world met in Montreal at a United Nations gathering of nearly 200 countries called COP15, where governments from around the world have been trying to agree on their responsibilities for saving our planet’s biodiversity.

At the time of this writing it looks like a deal has been reached: “a peace pact with nature” and “a last chance to put nature on the path to recovery.” It will attempt to protect a third of the planet’s land and water for nature by 2030. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected, clearly not enough!

COP15: Can it work?

My good friend Wayne Sawchuk was at COP15 and sends this encouraging report. Wayne was instrumental in the creation of the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area (MKMA), 6.5 million hectares of land in Northern B.C. where intact ecosystems co-exist with carefully regulated resource extraction and tourism.

As he points out, the MKMA provides a working model for how COP15 can achieve its goals.

“This past weekend I was fortunate to be in Montreal while the COP15 Biodiversity Conference was in progress. Folks have asked me what my impressions of this event were. Here goes.

“First, just the fact that over 15,000 delegates from around the world came together to discuss methods to protect biodiversity is immensely positive. Throughout the world wildlife and ecosystems are under threat, to the point that scientists believe we are presiding over a major extinction event. The discussions around ‘30 by 30’, or protecting 30% of every country’s land base by 2030 will help to address this issue, although even more will no doubt have to be done if severe species loss is to be avoided.

“The second thing I found so impressive was the attendance of many indigenous leaders. Coming from all over the world, these leaders pressed for protection for intact landscapes wherever they are found, in order to safeguard wildlife and habitat, as well as indigenous and other cultures.

“Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to support Indigenous Conservation with $800 million in funding is VERY positive, and will no doubt support the creation of a passel of new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA’s).

“One of these potential protected areas, the Dene Key Kusan, is being proposed by the Kaska Dene out of Lower Post. The DKK encompasses a vast swath of primarily intact land on the northwest side of the MK. The funding announced at COP15 will assist in bringing these proposals forward, a very positive step in achieving the goals of reconciliation.

Muskwa-Kechika: A model

“In summary then, it is clear that action is needed NOW if we are going to maintain all the species of wildlife that presently exist on the land base. A new way of thinking about ‘conservation’ is needed, one that respects and conserves all values, as the MKMA does.

“This may be a time when the Muskwa-Kechika model is more important than ever before, as it offers the hope of sustaining wilderness, wildlife, and cultures for all time wherever they may occur across the globe. If 30 per cent of land can be fully protected, set in a matrix with the most intact and important swaths of the remaining land base are sustained by MKMA-like management, then perhaps there is hope.”

The deal reached by some 190 countries at COP15 is not a small deal. It sets out precise objectives on pesticides, on reducing the loss of species, on eliminated bad subsidies, and it doubles until 2025 and triples by 2030 global financing to protect and restore our planet’s biodiversity.

As Wayne says: “It is never too late to move the agenda in the right direction, and in my opinion COP15 does just that.”

Don Pettit lives and writes in Dawson Creek and is executive director of the Peace Energy Cooperative.

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