The 11th Meeting of the UN Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP11) wrapped up today in Bucharest, Romania. This international effort to conserve wetlands and their resources directly contrasts the Harper Conservatives’ destructive, anti-nature policies.
“The protection of wetlands is much more difficult in Canada now that the Conservatives have gutted the Fisheries Act to protect certain fish, rather than fish habitat,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “It must have been difficult for government representatives at the UN conference to hold their heads up in front of the rest of the world.”
The little-known Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. Adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, it provides the framework for national and international action and cooperation to conserve or wisely use wetlands and their resources.
Wetlands include lakes and rivers, swamps, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, deltas, mangroves, coral reefs, as well as human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, and reservoirs.
The theme of the conference was “Wetlands: home and destination,” reflecting the focus on sustainable wetland tourism and recreation. Historically, Canada, with about 25 percent of the world’s wetlands, has provided international leadership in supporting Ramsar.
However, with the aggressive expansion of the Alberta oil sands, for example, Canada’s wetlands, in this case peatlands, are rapidly being destroyed. A recent study by top scientists revealed that, contrary to Conservative and oil industry promises, the peatlands, which took thousands of years to form, cannot be restored.
These unique landscapes play a key role in filtering water, feeding caribou (an increasingly endangered species in northern Alberta), storing carbon, recharging groundwater, protecting biological diversity, and providing flood protection.
May acknowledged the efforts of Canadians who support the sustainability goals of the Ramsar Convention.
“I want to recognize the hard work of Canadians who are trying to protect wetlands in Canada and around the world,” said the Green Party Leader. “We all know that, given the political climate in Canada, it isn’t easy to stand up for the conservation and sustainability of any natural resource.”