$650 million in annual conservation aid is needed to make Canada a world leader: report

CHESTER, NOVA SCOTIA, September 17, 2020 – Canada is a global cheapskate when it comes to supporting the world’s most threatened and biologically rich tropical ecosystems.

A report published today by the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) found that Canada, while increasing funds for conservation at home, is near the back of the pack among wealthy nations when it comes to paying to save tropical nature.

Protecting the tropics is vital to stemming the tide of vanishing species—happening faster now, according to this week’s UN report on biodiversity, than at any time in human history—and to reducing the risk of new deadly pandemics.  Tropical forests also slow climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in trees. 

The report compared biodiversity-related bilateral Official Development Assistance—the main source of international conservation finance—from donor nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) between 2002 and 2018.

While other donors generally increased support for international conservation—some dramatically—during the period, Canada’s conservation aid has been and remains scant. The country’s average annual contribution for the years 2016-2018, for example, was just over $10 million—less by two orders of magnitude than that contributed by France and Germany (more than US$1 billion each) to help lower-income countries save nature.

Even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in 2019 that Canada was “stepping up as a world leader in biodiversity and nature conservation,” the country has not been among the top 10 donors of biodiversity-related international aid since 2012.

The ICFC report argues that Canadian conservation leadership is nevertheless within reach. It recommends that Canada match or exceed other top donors by increasing Canadian funds for international conservation to at least $650 million per year.

The report calls on Ottawa to urge other industrialized countries to up their support for conservation within developing nations as well. The report also calls on Canada to ensure a portion of its international support for the fight against climate change goes to “nature-based climate solutions” in the tropics that also benefit biodiversity and human well-being.

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View the report


 “As people renowned for their love of nature, Canadians will likely be surprised to learn how far behind Canada has fallen in protecting it internationally.” 

— Molly Bartlett, Executive Director, ICFC

“Investing in nature is the smartest thing we can do. It's crucial in relation to biodiversity loss, climate change and human well-being--especially for the world's most vulnernable people. Our common future depends on it.” 

— Anne Lambert, Founding Director, ICFC

“What would Canada be without the flocks of colorful warblers that stream out of the tropics every year to nest and feast on caterpillars in our Boreal forests? What would the arctic tundra be without the tens of million of shorebirds that make their way through the tropics north to their breeding grounds? These birds form a biological bond between Canada and the tropics that should never be broken. How many Canadians realize that much of the rainfall that falls on the heartland during spring planting time is transported out of the Amazon forest by long range climate connections? Canada is part of the global climate cycle that is strongly influenced by tropical forests. Their loss will greatly elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere increasing the climate change and extreme weather threats confronting all Canadians. The genetic wealth found in the hundreds of thousands of plants and other organisms of the tropics is a treasure trove of molecules awaiting discovery for medical and industrial application. Tropical species extinctions will deny these benefits to all future Canadians for all time. Canadian leadership in the global environment demands not just action at home but recognition that Canadians will directly benefit from the conservation of the tropics.”

— Adrian Forsyth, award-winning author and conservationist, the Andes Amazon Fund

“Despite the severity of the global pandemic, it is important we keep in mind that the environmental crisis we are facing is a far greater threat to human wellbeing. The degradation of natural ecosystems has profound consequences, to human health, economies and survival.  Zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19 coming from animals to humans are on the rise. As natural areas, and forests are cleared for timber production and agriculture, a ‘checkerboard’ of forest edges is created. This increases the potential points of contact between humans and wildlife, which in turn increases the likelihood of viral transmission and the emergence of dangerous novel human diseases.”

— Kerry Bowman, conservationist and bioethicist, University of Toronto

For more information:

Molly Bartlett, Executive Director, ICFC,, 617-888-2744

Anne Lambert, Founding Director, ICFC,, 902-440-5969 [7 a.m-5 pm ADT/6-4 EDT)

Canadian experts on tropical conservation

Adrian Forsyth, founder and strategic advisor with the Andes Amazon Fund,, 202-256-8651

Kerry Bowman, assistant professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto,, 647 235 6159

Alex Smith, associate professor, University of Guelph,, 519-763-8938

Jay Malcolm, Professor, University of Toronto, 647-706-2042,

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