Farmers Forum analysis
TORONTO — More than 190 nations got together in Montreal this month to figure out how to protect nature from people. They came away with a deal for the world that is so vague, it’s difficult to assess what it means.
The United Nations biodiversity conference — dubbed COP15 to avoid the jargonistic tangle of the ‘Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties 15’ — lasted more than a week. It was hosted by the Chinese Minister of Environment, whose own country ironically doesn’t appear to give a dam on the Yangtze about environmental issues. China is the biggest polluter on the planet. On the climate change front, China mined a record amount of coal in 2022, according to Bloomberg News, and also produced a record amount of coal-fired electricity, according to Reuters.
The headline-making deal mandates that each country “conserve,” or not develop, 30% of its land and water by 2030. It’s not clear how this might apply in Canada, where over 80% of the land is uninhabited anyway.
Perhaps more important for Canadian agriculture is the requirement that each country cut the “risk” of pesticides by 50% by 2030, just seven years from now. This is likely more austere than merely cutting “usage” of pesticides by volume. The deal similarly calls for the signatories to cut in half “excess nutrients lost to the environment,” in an apparent blow to fertilizer usage, again by 2030. Canadians stood up and applauded this deal when it was signed.
The deal also cancels $500 billion U.S. in global annual subsidies for agriculture, industrial fishing and oil and gas extraction — subsidies described as a “harm to biodiversity” and orders signatories to agree to redirect those funds to “sustainable practices.”
It’s not clear how Canada might ratchet down its own farm subsidies, to comply with the deal, or if this might necessitate a reworking of the federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Policy Framework — tellingly renamed the “Sustainable Agricultural Policy Framework” earlier in 2022.
OMAFRA minister Lisa Thompson’s office was still trying to assess what it all means for this province’s farmers, when contacted by Farmers Forum.
“We are currently reviewing the proposals to understand the potential roles and implications for Ontario, set out in the UN agreement signed by the government of Canada,” Jack Sullivan, communications director for Thompson’s office, said in an email.
The environmental movement’s growing antipathy toward agriculture and food production was on full display when delegates actually debated — but defeated — a motion for the EAT-Lancet diet forcibly limiting dairy, meat and seafood to 10% of their diet.
“Governments should stay away from our nation’s private kitchens. Full stop,” Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University professor of food policy and distribution, tweeted in response to the motion. “Eco-extremists believe when a person eats a steak, it’s everyone’s problem now. Quite scary. We are collectively losing track of what food is all about.”
Canadians for Affordable Energy President Dan McTeague has previously told Farmers Forum that he’s “gravely concerned” about policy prescriptions arising from such UN conferences. “I do worry about any type of summit that might be akin to what we heard from the leaders of the World Economic Forum, which is, ‘You’ll eat less meat, you’ll not own property and you’ll be happy,’” McTeague said in July 2021.
He has also weighed in on the COP15 deal, condemning it as a threat to liberty and prosperity and called it “ridiculous.”
He told Lee Harding, of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy: “This has nothing to do with environment. This is about control of society and population. This is also dramatic and significant interference into the sovereign conduct of affairs of any nation.”
Several African nations bitterly opposed the global plan as heavy-handed and impeding their own development.
In a statement, Federal Environment Minister Stephen Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace environmentalist member, said, “Science tells us this is the minimum needed to protect the future of our planet.”
At the conference, Justin Trudeau pledged $350 million to help developing countries with their goals. Combined with previous commitments made by the governing Liberals, Canadian taxpayers are funding $1.5 billion in foreign biodiversity projects.