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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 4 - Incentives and Legislation

To maintain or develop incentives and legislation that support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.


Canadian society has not recognized the value of ecological services, species and genetic resources. Often, environmental conservation has been seen as a cost to society, rather than an investment in the future, and the benefits of conservation, especially biodiversity conservation, have been improperly understood. As a result, economic decision-making has not adequately reflected the value of biodiversity. However, there is now growing recognition that the ecological systems that support human society are under severe pressure, and that economic activities must be pursued in harmony with the Earth's capacity to support them.

Government and international policies have influenced, and will continue to influence, the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. These policies have affected corporate behaviour in major resource sectors, including fisheries, forestry and agriculture and in the development of non-renewable resources. If the objectives of the Convention are to be achieved, federal, provincial, territorial, regional and urban government policies will need to be supportive of biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources.

Economic instruments should be developed to influence consumer behaviour in ways that support biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of biological resources. Individuals and families make daily decisions based on the costs of goods and services. Economic instruments have successfully been used to change consumer spending in many areas. For example, water consumption has been significantly reduced in some urban areas by charging consumers for the volume of water they use, rather than charging a flat fee. Consumers have also shown some willingness to pay more for products they believe are environmentally friendly. Economic instruments such as "green taxes" have been used to influence consumer behaviour. Deposits on containers have been successful in promoting recycling, and debt-for-nature swaps have been effective in establishing protected areas in some countries.

Economic and Social Incentives

Article 11:

Adopt economically and socially sound measures that act as incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of components of biodiversity.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Strategic Directions:

  1. Maintain or develop and use appropriate social/economic policies and incentives as a means of promoting the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of biological resources and new sustainable uses of biological resources.
  2. Enhance our capability to assign a value to biodiversity, and increase efforts to construct a natural resources account that considers ecosystem degradation, loss of species and genetic diversity and resource depletion, and complements standard national income accounts.
  3. Investigate the impact of proposed biodiversity conservation policies and programs on economic activities in order to develop effective conservation measures that enhance positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on the economy.
  4. Determine and make available to policy-makers the estimated costs associated with unsustainable use of biological resources, including the costs of ecosystem degradation and the depletion of species and populations.
  5. Ensure that economic, trade, conservation and sustainable resource-use laws and policies are mutually supportive.
  6. Encourage the participation of property owners and resource developers in biodiversity conservation programs.


Legislation is an important tool that can contribute to achieving the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. Legislation is most effective when it is developed and used as part of an overall strategy that includes planning systems, education and incentives.

Legislation regarding biodiversity is administered by the various orders of government. Implementing the Convention does not require changing the constitutional division of powers in Canada. However, governments are prepared to examine current administrative arrangements with a view to ensuring that administrative efficiency and effectiveness are optimized.

National Decision-making

Article 6:

Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Strategic Directions:

Jurisdictions will examine their current legislative regimes with respect to the goals of this Strategy, and take the necessary and practical steps towards creating an improved legislative framework that supports the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources.
Jurisdictions will determine whether harmonization among Canadian jurisdictions and other countries of biodiversity-related legislation is necessary to reduce duplication and fill gaps and work towards harmonization where appropriate and practical.