Kingston to sign Montréal Pledge committing to biodiversity

Three residents presented delegations to Kingston City Council at their meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2024, in relation to the Montréal Pledge: Cities United in Action for Biodiversity, including (L to R) Nathan Nesdoly, Portsmouth District Climate Champion; Joyce Hostyn, Master Gardener and Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University; and Prusha Balaratnam, life sciences student at Queen’s University and Sustainability Director for Queen’s Arts and Science Undergraduate Society. Screen captured images.

Biodiversity was at the top of Kingston City Council’s mind at its meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2024, where three delegations spoke in favour of the City of Kingston becoming a signatory of the Montréal Pledge.

A report by Kingston’s Growth and Development Services Commissioner Paige Agnew and Climate Leadership Manager Julie Salter-Keane recommended that Council authorize Kingston to sign The Montréal Pledge and that Council direct staff to register and track Kingston’s progress towards the pledge’s goals on the CitiesWithNature registry, an international platform highlighting the commitments and initiatives undertaken by cities to promote greening and biodiversity protection.

The Montréal Pledge, inspired by the Global Biodiversity Framework, is an opportunity for communities to declare their intention to contribute to the global initiative. It outlines 15 tangible actions to co-ordinate local biodiversity conservation efforts and inform collaborative and inclusive decision-making processes. Signatories to the pledge are making a commitment to take these actions in their municipality.

The first delegation was Joyce Hostyn, a master gardener who volunteers with Little Forests Kingston, an organization whose stated goal is to “transform Kingston into a nature-positive, equitable City in a Forest by 2030.”

Hostyn highlighted action 15 of the Montréal Pledge: “Ensure the equitable and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in decision making and in the process of knowledge acquisition and transmission.”

She noted that Indigenous peoples comprise less than five per cent of the world’s population, but protect 80 per cent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

Hostyn said signing the Montréal Pledge “is an important step in uniting around action for the continuation of life, launching a conversation that centres on the voices and worldviews of Indigenous peoples, of land, of water, of soil, of plants.”

“Signing the pledge is important not just because of the biodiversity crisis, but as part of truth and reconciliation,” Hostyn said. She stated that she has recently committed to her responsibilities under the spirit of truth and reconciliation and that the Indigenous community’s teachings “have transformed and are continuing to transform my worldview and my work as a master gardener and a little forester. I no longer see land, soil, water, air, or plants as objects, things, or resources. Instead, I embrace them as kin with whom I live in a web of reciprocity.”

Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, from an Aboriginal perspective, also requires reconciliation with the natural world, Hostyn emphasized. “If human beings resolve problems between themselves but continue to destroy the natural world, then reconciliation remains incomplete. We must, the elders say, reconcile with the earth herself.”

Hostyn expressed hope that signing the Montréal Pledge is just the beginning of helping Kingston grow into a multi-species city and a forest “that invites the wisdom and the voices of the generations who have come before us — one that unleashes the imagination of the current generation, especially our youth, and one that remembers our responsibilities towards the generations [of species] yet to come.”

Next, Prusha Balaratnam, a fourth-year student at Queen’s University, spoke in favour of the City signing the Montréal Pledge. She noted her appreciation of Kingston’s “beauty of biodiversity” and highlighted “the importance of making a conscious effort to protect it. “

“Today we stand at a pivotal point that can not only shape the immediate future of Kingston but also impact generations to come. [Signing the pledge] is a golden opportunity that aligns with our collective vision for sustainable and inclusive Kingston,” Balaratnam said, pointing out that The Montréal Pledge program is a pragmatic approach that aligns with Council’s 2023 to 2026 Strategic Plan.”

“Not only does the Montréal Pledge enable projects that consider biodiversity, but it also fosters a resilient community… It would be a shame for Kingston to miss out on an opportunity that aligns with their goals and commitment to a sustainable future.” 

The report noted, “To become a signatory to The Montréal Pledge requires either an official letter from the Mayor or [the adoption of] a City Council resolution to this effect. No requirements are associated with becoming a signatory city… All commitments made under the Pledge are voluntary and there is no requirement for annual reporting or progress tracking.” However, signatory cities may choose to track their progress towards the 15 pledge commitments by registering with and using the CitiesWithNature platform.

Council’s 2023-2026 Strategic Plan includes a commitment to establish a strategy for protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the city by reviewing models such as the Montréal Biodiversity Pledge, defining existing initiatives, and identifying additional actions based on the international framework of Sustainable Development Goals. 

In the end, Council voted without discussion to support the move. The Mayor was authorized to sign and submit a letter of support to the City of Montréal for the City of Kingston to become a signatory of The Montréal Pledge. Council also directed staff to register and track the City of Kingston’s progress towards the Montréal Pledge on the CitieswithNature registry.

The agenda from this meeting of Kingston City Council can be found on the City of Kingston’s council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in its entirety on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

One thought on “Kingston to sign Montréal Pledge committing to biodiversity

  • Curious that the Mayor signed the Montreal Pledge but was the sole vote in Council to allow further installation of methane gas lines throughout Ontario. Biodiversity cannot be separated from fossil fuel-caused climate change.

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