Canada Target 4

By 2020, biodiversity considerations are integrated into Goal A municipal planning and activities of major municipalities across Canada.


About the Target

In 2015, approximately 80 percent of the Canadian population was living in the largest urban areas (Census Metropolitan Areas, or CMAs). The total area of land in Canada’s CMAs almost doubled between 1971 and 2001. Although urban areas occupy a relatively small portion of Canada, they are often situated in places particularly rich in biodiversity, such as coastal areas, river valleys, and on the shores of lakes, so the impact of habitat loss occurring from urbanization may be disproportionate relative to the area disturbed. Urban expansion can also alter watersheds, degrading water quality for aquatic biodiversity and increasing vulnerability to flooding. The importance of healthy ecosystems in urban settings has become better understood in recent years. Some of the benefits for urban dwellers of increased green space include cleaner air and reduced respiratory illness, buffering of increasingly extreme climate events, opportunities for environmental education and improved cognitive development, recreation, and more. Urban forests and other natural or naturalized areas not only create attractive neighbourhoods, but can provide natural infrastructure outcomes that, for example, support water and air quality, help with flood control and reducing erosion. Urban biodiversity underpins these ecosystem services and supports pollinator species, and avian and other species that help to control pest insects. Municipalities are uniquely positioned to play a significant role by developing locally tailored biodiversity solutions.

Canada Target 4 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

  • Aichi Target 2 - By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.


2018 Interim Progress Assessment

On track to meeting target iconOverall, progress is being made across the country towards this target. Progress is assessed by looking at the number of medium and large population centres that have developed biodiversity conservation strategies, and the number that have biodiversity objectives incorporated into their municipal planning documents.

There is a small but growing number of municipalities across the country working to integrate biodiversity considerations into their planning, policies, and major activities.

Delta, British Columbia has developed a Birds and Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, in partnership with local naturalists, the agricultural community, and federal and provincial agencies;

Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec has incorporated a Natural Spaces section into their sustainable development plan, to protect biodiversity and natural spaces; and

Halifax, Nova Scotia is implementing an Urban Forest Master Plan to enhance tree density throughout the municipality.

Please see the supplementary report on Canada Target 4, appended to Canada’s 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity for information about several more examples.

In 2017, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability Canada administered a survey on biodiversity efforts in medium and large municipalities across the country. ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a not-for-profit, non-government organization that works with local governments to raise awareness and build capacity to address biodiversity concerns at the local level. In Canada, ICLEI has been working with Canadian municipalities since 2009 to raise awareness of biodiversity issues, profile champions and stewards of biodiversity, and to create a platform for sharing ideas and best practices. For example, ICLEI has developed biodiverCITIES: A Primer on Nature in Cities (2014) and a Handbook for Municipal Biodiversity Planning and Management (2015).

In total, 46 medium and large Canadian municipalities responded to the survey. 51% indicated that they either have a dedicated biodiversity policy or strategy or have one in development. 91% indicated they have biodiversity objectives contained within their municipal planning documents. While direct comparisons are not possible, these results suggest progress since a similar survey was conducted in 2014.

These results are encouraging, with several cities reporting that they are taking significant steps. However, the survey represents a relatively small sample of all Canadian municipalities and it is not clear to what extent Canada’s smaller municipalities in particular are also systematically integrating of biodiversity considerations into local planning. Sharing information on best practices in developing and implementing municipal biodiversity strategies and action plans, continuing collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial partners, as well as securing resources and training can provide opportunities for municipalities to make additional advances in restoring urban ecosystems, maintaining natural infrastructure, connecting residents with nature, and supporting local stewardship initiatives.

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