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Canada  

Feds look to conservation

The federal government appears poised to commit what some believe could be a significant amount of cash in next week's budget to protect more of Canada's lands, inland waters and oceans.

Federal insiders say the government feels its climate-change financing has largely been dealt with, so Ottawa will likely shift its funding focus to other international obligations on the environment, including protected spaces.

Groups pushing Canada to fulfil its United Nations vow to safeguard more of its ecosystems by 2020 say signals from Ottawa suggest this will be the year the government announces a big investment.

It remains to seen how far the Liberal government will go to meet its targets under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity — but the clock is ticking.

The agreement, reached in 2010, says Canada must protect at least 17 per cent of its terrestrial areas, including inland waters, as well as at least 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020.

Today, Canada's protected space covers nearly eight per cent of its marine ecosystems and just over 10 per cent of terrestrial areas.

To meet the UN goals, a coalition of 19 environmental and conservation organizations has called on the federal government to use the budget to invest $1.3 billion over the next three years. After that, the Green Budget Coalition wants Ottawa to commit another $450 million per year.

From their interactions with federal officials, members of the group say momentum has been building for months inside government.

"I would be very surprised if there wasn't some money — and even a significant amount of money — for protected areas because that feels increasingly like the direction the government has been going," said Eric Hebert-Daly, national executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

"The drive to the 2020 targets is really taking shape in a way that we had been hoping for over the last number of years and the seriousness with which the government seems to be taking it is going well."



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