Ottawa set to sign Montréal Pledge on Biodiversity

** Update: on April 26, City Council indeed signed onto the Montréal Pledge! All councillors except Councillors Luloff, Darouze, and Desroches voted in favour. We'll be monitoring the City's efforts to fulfill this pledge. **

On April 18, the City of Ottawa’s Environment and Climate Change Committee supported a motion for the City to move forward with signing the Montréal Pledge on biodiversity.

The Pledge arose out of the COP 15 meetings held in Montreal last December. Montreal's mayor challenged cities and municipalities around the world to sign the Pledge and commit to 15 concrete actions (PDF). These actions are all designed to help cities protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

The Pledge has eight commitments aiming to “reduce threats to biodiversity,” which include eliminating plastic waste, reducing use of pesticides, reducing pollution, and incorporating biodiversity into decision-making. Three of the commitments aim to “share the benefits of biodiversity” by increasing green spaces, prioritizing nature-based solutions to extreme weather events, and ensuring agriculture and forestry zones are sustainably managed. The final three commitments cover education, appropriate governance frameworks, and ensuring the equitable and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making. (View a PDF of the full Montréal Pledge here)

Within one month of the Montreal COP15 meeting, 57 cities across all five continents had signed the Pledge. Cities that have signed include Toronto, Montréal, Gatineau, Québec, Vancouver, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, and Melbourne.

Cities have a very important role to play in preserving and improving biodiversity. Commitments like the Pledge are an important step toward improving local government policies and local government support for environmentally sustainable practices. Many of Ottawa’s policies and programs – such as the Climate Change Master Plan – already support actions in the Pledge, as the motion’s preamble acknowledges. Thus, becoming a signatory is consistent with the City’s strategic direction. We believe this is an important step for the City to take to further underline the critical nature of these issues.

However, signing the Pledge does not achieve much of substance if it is not also accompanied by actions to implement the commitments and a clear and public means of tracking progress. All the Pledge signatory cities are invited to track their progress on the Cities With Nature Action Platform. On this website, cities can publicly showcase their actions and plans, easily track their achievements, and share information with other cities. However, as of early April 2023, only 17 cities were participating.

We urge the City of Ottawa not only to sign the Pledge, but to follow this commitment with concrete actions. In addition, the City should commit to transparency and public accountability by creating clear measures of progress, such as a public dashboard and regular reports. We will continue to monitor the City's actions on biodiversity.

Dinah Maclean volunteers with Council Watch.

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