Last week, the Government of Canada released the 2015 Progress Report and 2016-2019 draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). The government is inviting input on what environmental sustainability targets it should aim for over the next 3 years, and how those targets can best be measured and reported, through a 120-day public consultation period.
“I am inviting all Canadians to take a look at the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and help us improve it,” said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Your feedback will ensure that our plan reflects the knowledge and perspectives of Canadians and will help us shape the final strategy.”
Canadians can submit their thoughts and opinions until June 24, 2016 by: using comment boxes within the draft “e-Strategy” online; commenting on government Facebook posts or Tweet at @environmentca with the hashtag #sustainability; e-mailing [email protected]; mailing the Sustainable Development Office in Quebec; and/or joining the discussion on the government’s Let’s Talk Sustainability website.
The 2016-2019 strategy is more integrated in its reflection of the connections between the environment, the economy and the well-being of Canadians, with 5 focus areas: Taking action on climate change; Clean technology, jobs and innovation; National parks, protected areas and ecosystems; Freshwater and oceans; and Human health, well-being and quality of life. Each of these has 5-10 related targets. Input has also been requested related to whether the FSDS sufficiently aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or how they could be better integrated.
The 2015 Progress Report demonstrates that Canada has met some of its previous targets, but is facing an uphill battle going forward. For example, for Target 3.1, the government successfully exceeded its goal to increase the percentage of on-reserve First Nations water systems with low risk ratings from 27 percent to 50 percent by 2015 by achieving a 57 percent increase in 2014-2015, however, the goal to increase the percentage of on-reserve First Nations wastewater systems with low risk ratings from 35 to 70 percent was not achieved – only 48 percent had low risk ratings in 2014-2015.
Significant progress will need to be made to meet some of the targets for 2020: As of 2013, Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions level was 3.1 percent below its 2005 level, showing little progress towards Target 1.1, which aims for a 17 percent reduction in total GHG emissions by 2020. Similarly, GHG emissions from government operations are expected to decrease by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and only a 2.5 percent reduction had been achieved in fiscal year 2013-2014. Meanwhile, from 1990 to 2014, protected coastal and marine areas increased from 0.32 percent of Canada’s marine territory to 0.9 percent – far short of the 10 percent by 2020 goal.
Canadians are hopeful that their newly elected government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will take climate action more seriously than his predecessor, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Just this week, a coalition of 26 corporate executives, environmental activists, First Nations representatives and labor and community leaders called for a quicker transition to a ‘green’ economy. Energy sector leaders also pushed their causes this week: The BC Cleantech CEO Alliance sent a letter to the Prime Minister stressing the need for cleantech sector growth, and the executive director of the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation gave his two cents on how nuclear could support emissions reduction targets. The public consultation period will allow a variety of opinions and ideas to be heard over the next few months.
Canada was among the 3 non-European countries in the top 20 of the 2015 Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index (GSCI), ranking 16th, ahead of the US (41st) and UK (48th).