Integrating sustainability into decision-making

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Strategic Environmental Assessments

In the 2010 FSDS, the government committed to strengthening the inclusion of environmental considerations in its own decision-making. This commitment makes use of Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) that integrate environmental considerations into the government's decision-making, as described in the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. In October 2010, revised Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive (the Guidelines) were published to coincide with the release of the FSDS. There are three important changes to the Guidelines:

  • Applying FSDS goals and targets when undertaking SEAs;
  • Reporting on the results of SEAs in DPRs; and,
  • Describing positive or negative contributions of the proposals to the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets in SEA public statements.

By 2011, the majority of Federal Sustainable Development Strategy departments indicated that the 2010 revisions had been integrated into their organizations' strategic environmental assessments processes to a varying extent (some more fully than others). This integration is ongoing.

The Guidelines ensure that the FSDS goals and targets are considered in policy, plan and program development across government, and improve the overall reporting and supporting transparency of the FSDS and SEAs.

Examples where departments and agencies have integrated the new requirements include:

  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is updating its SEA course for departmental analysts and other interested practitioners to reflect the revised Guidelines.
  • Environment Canada has established a new departmental policy on SEA and has also developed a departmental SEA template that prompts analysts to consider the FSDS goals and targets at all stages of the SEA process.
  • In 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada launched a Sustainable Development Policy Framework which includes a Policy on Sustainable Development Assessments (SDA). The framework requires that Memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board Submissions undergo an SDA. As a result, a sustainable development analysis is completed even where no SEA would be required. Citizenship and Immigration Canada developed SDAs for eight Memoranda to Cabinet in 2011–2012.
  • Finance Canada has updated its internal SEA guidance document to help its officials identify and consider FSDS goals and targets when completing SEAs. This includes providing specific information on common environmental issues, as well as their drivers and linkages to FSDS. The guidance document is easily accessible, along with other SEA resources, on the Finance Canada's one-stop internal SEA Web page.
  • Parks Canada has revised its preliminary scan form to include consideration of FSDS goals and targets during the preparation of an SEA. In addition, Parks Canada is preparing a new SEA guide that directs environmental assessment practitioners to identify and consider FSDS goals and targets.
  • Health Canada created a departmental intranet site to inform and raise awareness of expectations in relation to its new SEA policy. The intranet also contains links to the guidance for the conduct of SEAs and other associated tools. Health Canada also delivered two SEA training sessions following the intranet launch of the policy and tools.

Departments and agencies are also integrating the FSDS goals and targets into their SEA communications and reporting -- in particular, into SEA public statements and DPRs. For example:

  • Environment Canada's departmental SEA template includes a section on preparing public statements that requires a description of the proposal's effects on the FSDS goals and targets. Environment Canada has also released public statements that include descriptions of initiatives' contributions to implementing the FSDS.
  • As part of broader changes to Finance Canada's SEA processes, officials are now asked to include information relating to FSDS goals and targets in SEA public statements. This new element is accessible via the Department's SEA Public Statements Web page for relevant measures in Economic Action Plan 2011 and Economic Action Plan 2012.
  • Parks Canada's new guidance on preparing SEA public statements also outlines the requirement to include, in the overview of environmental effects, any impacts on FSDS goals and targets. SEA public statements are posted on Parks Canada's public website.

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