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Progress towards greater transparency: Plan, do, check and improve

The first cycle of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy provided government decision-makers and managers with a suite of tools to coordinate action across the federal government and track progress. These tools are making environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to Parliament, as required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

The first three-year cycle (2010–2013) of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) is grounded in the commitment to use each Progress Report to identify opportunities for improving subsequent FSDSs with the aim of making environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to Parliament. A great deal has already been accomplished to improve transparency by providing:

  1. Αn integrated, whole-of-government picture of actions and results to achieve environmental sustainability;
  2. A link between sustainable development planning and reporting and the government's core expenditure planning and reporting system; and,
  3. Effective measurement, monitoring and reporting in order to track and report on progress to Canadians.

In addition, the FSDS supports links to economic and social policy through strengthened strategic environmental assessments that apply the FSDS goals and targets.

The three-year cycle of transparency establishes a system of "plan, do, check, improve" that, over time, will drive change. Progress towards targets is being tracked and gaps have emerged. Successive strategies will review those gaps and reflect policy changes drivenby improved transparency.

Whole-of-government view

The FSDS presents a whole-of-government view of environmental priorities at the federal level, with the goals, targets and implementation strategies across 27 departments and agencies. This whole-of-government view has helped bring coherence both to Canada's domestic policy and its engagement with international partners on sustainable development. For example:

  • The FSDS contributed to Canada's preparations for the 2011 United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 19). Notably, it identified the collection of commitments and implementation strategies that represented Canada's efforts for the Commission's key themes, such as Sustainable Consumption and Production.
  • The FSDS was used to inform and strengthen Canada's review of progress on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2004 Environmental Performance Review of Canada.
  • The FSDS is being used to inform Canada's position in bilateral and multilateral agreements on environmental quality and trade, including negotiations with the European Union to establish a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.
  • The FSDS was included in the toolkit of best practices identified by the G8 and G20 leaders during their development of a Green Economy strategy in 2012.
  • The Australian government uses our FSDS as an international example of how to integrate sustainability considerations into government operations and strategic planning.
  • Τhe role of the FSDS was profiled at the United Nations Rio+20 Conference in Canada's National Submission as the federal framework for sustainable development.

The FSDS is also being used by departments and agencies as background information and to provide policy context for sustainable development.

  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans views the FSDS as an element of accountability on sustainable development for industry and government, and as a driver of its precautionary and ecosystem approach to natural resource management.
  • The FSDS provides policy context to Western Economic Diversification's corporate business planning exercises.

While the FSDS tabled in 2010 provided a snapshot of the whole-of government view of environmental sustainability priorities, since that time, the government has renewed some programs, completed others, developed or updated regulations and initiated new commitments. In some cases, this has resulted in the programs and activities in the first FSDS not reflecting the priority now given to these initiatives. Examples include the government's commitment to strengthening its role as a world-class regulator, putting in place a comprehensive environmental monitoring program in the oil sands, and supporting Canadians in adapting to a changing climate.

In addition, the first cycle of the FSDS included the departments and agencies designated by the Federal Sustainable Development Act, and some contributions by other departments and agencies towards federal efforts to achieve FSDS goals and targets. Subsequent cycles of the FSDS will continue to reflect this whole-of-government view of environmental sustainability priorities, and broaden its scope of participation by welcoming non-FSDA departments to participate voluntarily, where appropriate.

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