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Performance Report on Environment Canada's 2011–2012 Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy

Part 1

Overview of Sustainable Development Policy and Practices

Federal Sustainable Development Act

In June 2008, the Federal Sustainable Development Act (FSDA) was proclaimed. The purpose of the Act is to provide the legal framework for developing and implementing a federal sustainable development strategy that will make environmental decision making more transparent and accountable to Parliament. The Act requires the development of a federal sustainable development strategy (FSDS) and a report on progress at least every three years.

Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2010-2013

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) 2010-2013, tabled on October 6, 2010, clearly articulates the Government of Canada's long-term goals and targets, including its plans for reducing the federal government's environmental footprint. The FSDS raises the profile of environmental issues in the federal government priority setting and decision making, firmly placing these issues on the same footing as the country's economic and social priorities.

Through the FSDS and the progress reports, Parliamentarians and Canadians will have a clear understanding of planned actions and progress related to environmental sustainability, thus driving change over time through the "plan, do, check, improve" cycle. The FSDS fulfils the requirements of the Act through three key improvements that render environmental decision making more transparent and accountable:

  • an integrated, whole-of-government picture of actions and results to achieve environmental sustainability;

  • a link between sustainable development planning and reporting and the federal government's core expenditure planning and reporting system; and

  • effective measurement, monitoring, and reporting in order to track and report on progress to Canadians.

As required under the Act and in support of the FSDS, annual departmental sustainable development strategies (DSDSs) are prepared to report on those portions of the FSDS that have specific implications for each respective department. These DSDSs are prepared to ensure proper management and accountability in terms of sustainable development.

Environment Canada

The Minister of Environment Canada has two major responsibilities regarding the FSDA.

First, the Act requires the Minister to

  • develop a federal sustainable development strategy on behalf of the Government of Canada and table it in both Houses of Parliament every three years; and

  • table a triennial report on the progress of the federal government in implementing the FSDS.

Second, as with all other Ministers of departments and agencies subject to the FSDA, the Minister of the Environment is responsible for developing Environment Canada's own departmental sustainable development strategy. This document is focused on the Minister's second responsibility.

Environment Canada's departmental sustainable development strategy is organized around the three strategic outcomes of the Department's Program Activity Architecture (PAA):

  • Canada's natural environment is conserved and restored for present and future generations;

  • Canadians are equipped to make informed decisions on changing weather, water and climate conditions; and

  • Threats to Canadians and their environment from pollution are minimized.

Environment Canada is committed to continuous improvement as more experience is gained. The Department will be looking for opportunities to improve both its own strategy and to assist other departments as all gain more experience with this coordinated approach.

Environment Canada's Sustainable Development Vision

Environment Canada's sustainable development vision is to improve Canadians' standard of living by protecting human health, conserving the environment, using resources efficiently, and advancing long-term economic competitiveness.

Progress Report on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2010-2013 and the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy

The information provided on this website is supported by the Progress Report on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) 2010-2013. The state of the environment indicators presented in departmental performance reports and FSDS progress reports demonstrate the Government of Canada's progress towards environmental objectives and sustainable development goals and targets as laid out in the FSDS. These indicators track progress on measures of environmental and socio-economic issues at broad outcome levels.

This website outlines departmental FSDS implementation strategies and corresponding performance information applicable over the intermediate and immediate time frames. Generally, progress toward a broad outcome is not always directly attributed to any one factor such as a government program or policy; however, the link between the broad outcome and government actions can be demonstrated, documented and made transparent. Moving from the implementation strategy performance measure to the state of the environment measure (indicator), the direct attribution to any one factor is reduced - nonetheless, the logical links between government programs and policies and broad outcomes remain.

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Departmental Decision Making and Sustainable Development Practices

The concept of sustainable development rests at the core of the Department's mandate. A flexible, yet robust decision-making process is, therefore, essential for the Department when considering the social, economic and environmental dimensions of strategic, policy and program issues as they arise. To this end, the Department's decision-making process, within an established corporate governance structure, allows both formal and informal opportunities to consider issues, set priorities and render either decisions or recommendations as necessary.

Sustainable Development Champion

The Assistant Deputy Minister of the Strategic Policy Branch is the Sustainable Development Champion and has overall leadership of the Departmental responsibilities related to sustainable development. In 2011-2012 the Champion

  • coordinated the development of the first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) progress report (tabled in June 2011), which included a framework to manage, monitor and report on the FSDS, and, also provided guidance to departments regarding reporting through their annual departmental sustainable development strategies planning and performance reports;

  • provided overall leadership and coordination in the implementation of the Federal Sustainable Development Act through effective interdepartmental engagement and the Sustainable Development Office; and

  • provided leadership on a new policy for the department on Strategic Environmental Assessment which improves transparency by linking the FSDS to departmental decision-making and reporting.

Strategic Environmental Assessment Highlights

The Department's Policy on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) establishes the key elements of EC's SEA management system. This management system was put in place to assure accountability for the implementation of the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals and to enable the Department to track and monitor the development of its SEAs and impacts on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) goals and targets. Updated tools, templates and guidance materials were developed to support departmental assessment and analysis.

During this reporting cycle, Environment Canada improved the quality of its SEAs for policy, plan and program proposals. SEAs for initiatives led by EC contributed to the achievement of most of the FSDS goals and a number of targets. However, for this reporting cycle, these SEAs addressed Goals 1, 2, 3 and 5 (Goal 1 - Climate Change -Reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to mitigate the severity and unavoidable impacts of climate change; Goal 2 - Air Pollution - Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems; Goal 3 - Water Quality - Protect and enhance the quality of water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems; and Goal 5 - Wildlife Conservation - Maintain or restore populations of wildlife to healthy levels). Descriptions of these initiatives can be found through Environment Canada's Public Statement Web page.

Based on the nature of Environment Canada's work, the majority of initiatives led by EC are expected to result in important positive environmental effects as well as positive contributions to the achievement of the FSDS goals and targets. Risks of possible unanticipated negative environmental impacts have been reduced by identifying and addressing such potential impacts through the SEA process, and by proposing alternative options and appropriate mitigation measures.

Decision-Making Tools

Regulatory Impact Assessment Summaries

Environment Canada uses regulatory impact assessment summaries (RIASs) to determine the expected impact of regulatory initiatives that address each of the requirements of the federal government's regulatory policy, namely the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation. The use of regulatory impact analysis has long been recognized as an international best practice, and RIASs have been used in Canada for over 20 years.

A RIAS provides a cogent, non-technical synthesis of information that allows the various audiences to understand the environmental issue being regulated. It allows audiences to understand the reason the issue is being regulated, the government's objectives, and the costs and benefits of the regulation, including the effectiveness of the regulation from an environmental standpoint. It also addresses who will be affected, who was consulted in developing the regulation, and how the government will evaluate and measure the performance of the regulation against its stated objectives. The RIAS is, in effect, a public accounting of the need for each regulation.

Intergovernmental Collaboration and Stakeholder Consultation

Environment Canada's sustainable development decisions and actions require collaboration, partnership and information exchange with key partners and stakeholders, including other levels of government, Aboriginal peoples, industry, environmental non-governmental organizations and Canadian citizens. Through these exchanges, Environment Canada aims to foster positive, long-term relationships with these key constituencies in all of its activities. For example, relationships with provincial and territorial partners are advanced through bilateral agreements, as well as through multilateral participation in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on International Climate Change. In addition, the Department consults and engages with Aboriginal peoples and stakeholders to deliver on core priorities such as protecting and conserving our air, water, wildlife and natural areas.

Monitoring, Reporting and Policy Improvement

Performance measurement and evaluation are complementary. While performance measurement is ongoing and focuses on the quantification of certain aspects of performance, evaluation is a snapshot in time. Regularly collected performance measurement information is used in periodic evaluation that provides, when analyzed in the context of evaluation specific data collection, a more in-depth and independent assessment of the outcomes achieved.

Ongoing Monitoring and Reporting

Implementation of the departmental sustainable development strategy will be monitored and reported on an ongoing basis in two ways:

  • periodic reporting to the Executive Management Committee

  • reporting in the departmental reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports

Evaluation

Evaluation relies on sound performance measurement as a reliable and credible source of evidence to demonstrate progress toward intended program outcomes. Using performance information and other evidence, evaluations can be helpful in identifying opportunities to improve the manner in which future sustainable development activities are designed and delivered so as to enhance the achievement of intended outcomes. In addition to design and delivery, evaluation can also be used to identify potential improvements to program efficiency, economy and oversight.

The FSDS1 will be evaluated as part of the evaluation of Environment Canada's Sustainability and Reporting Indicators Program, scheduled for evaluation in 2012-2013. The evaluation will address issues related to relevance and performance (including economy and efficiency), in compliance with the Treasury Board's Policy on Evaluation (2009).

An internal audit of the FSDS will be considered in the context of the departmental risk-based audit plan, as required by the Treasury Board Policy on Internal Audit and the Directive on Chief Audit Executives, Internal Audit Plans, and Support to the Comptroller General.

Policy Improvement

In the follow-up to the 2012-2013 evaluation, the management team leading Environment Canada's contribution to the FSDS will develop a management response with clear and concise management commitments to address evaluation recommendations. This response will allow management and evaluators to better ascertain progress and will facilitate the evaluator's ability to recommend the disposition or closure of evaluation recommendations.

The Evaluation Division regularly monitors and reports on the status of management commitments made in response to evaluation recommendations. Doing so provides Environment Canada's Departmental Evaluation Committee (chaired by the Deputy Minister) with timely information on how well the Department is addressing and resolving risks or deficiencies and acting on identified opportunities that have been raised in evaluations.

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Description of SEAs conducted during 2011-2012

The following initiatives underwent the SEA process and produced a public statement. Although EC conducted additional SEAs, the following include initiatives for which a decision was made and were formally announced.

Helping Canadians Adapt to a Changing Climate

Budget 2011 approved funding for programs designed to improve our understanding of climate impacts and to support adaptation planning and decision-making. The programs are aimed at advancing adaptation across targeted communities and sectors and collectively comprise the set of programs under the Adaptation Theme of the federal Clean Air Agenda. Environment Canada leads one of these programs - program A.1: Climate Change Prediction and Scenarios - which is one of a set of programs aimed at enhancing the science foundation to understand and predict climate and assess climate change impacts.

The SEA concluded that Climate Change Adaptation program will have consistently positive and indirect environmental effects by improving the quantity, quality, accessibility, and profile of information on climate change and variability over short and long timescales, and by facilitating improved planning and decision-making.

This initiative positively contributed to the following goals:

  • Goal 3: Water Quality - Protect and enhance the quality of water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems.

  • Goal 5: Wildlife Conservation - Maintain or restore populations of wildlife to healthy levels.

Public Statement Web page

Clean Air Regulatory Agenda (Environment Canada's Contribution)

The SEA concluded that Clean Air Regulatory Agenda (CARA) supports proposed regulations and other measures to address domestic industrial air emissions, including greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants, and to improve outdoor and indoor air quality. Renewed CARA funding will also support relevant policy, monitoring and reporting, and science activities.

The proposed scientific research, monitoring, modeling as well as policy and economic analysis are expected to have an indirect positive effect on the environment by: providing foundational knowledge necessary to develop and implement regulations; providing assessments and reports on the effectiveness of measures; and, improving knowledge about the current and projected levels of emissions. In addition, the Air Quality Health Index is also expected to have an important indirect positive effect on human health, by providing real-time information to Canadians on air quality. This will facilitate positive behavioural change; enabling Canadian's to reduce their exposure to harmful air pollutants.

This initiative contributed to the following goals and targets:

  • Goal 1: Climate Change - Reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to mitigate the severity and unavoidable impacts of climate change.

  • Target 1.1: Climate Change Mitigation - Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 17% by 2020.

  • Goal 2: Air Pollution - Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems.

  • Target 2.1: Air pollutants - Reduce air pollutants in order to maintain or improve air quality across the country and achieve the emission targets which are currently under development in consultations with provinces and stakeholders.

  • Target 2.2: Indoor Air Quality - Help protect the health of Canadians by assessing indoor air pollutants and developing guidelines and other tools to better manage indoor air quality.

Public Statement Web page

International Climate Change Strategy 2011: Fast Start Financing

The 15th Conference of the Parties culminated in the Copenhagen Accord (the Accord), a significant breakthrough in the global effort to address climate change. The Accord provides for significant international financing, including a collective commitment by developed countries to provide new and additional resources for the 2010 to 2012 period, with adaptation funding focused on the most vulnerable, especially least developed countries, small island developing states and Africa.

The SEA of the Fast Start Financing concluded that this initiative would result in important positive environmental effects by supporting efforts by developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, through financing focused on three priority areas - adaptation, clean energy, and forests and agriculture.

Opportunities for the mitigation of harmful long-term effects due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are supported by the strategic use of financing to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.

This initiative contributed to the achievement of the following goals and targets:

  • Goal 1: Climate Change - Reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to mitigate the severity and unavoidable impacts of climate change.

  • Target 1.1: Climate Change Mitigation - Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 17% by 2020.

Public Statement Web page

International Climate Change Strategy and the Canada-United States Clean Energy Dialogue

The International Climate Change Strategy and the Canada-United States Clean Energy Dialogue will ensure that Canada continues to engage across multilateral fora in strategic international climate change discussions and negotiations and that Canada continues to engage and align with the US on climate change issues. This initiative will enable Canada to participate in international efforts to address the global challenge of climate change.

The SEA of the Clean Energy Dialogue concluded that this initiative would result in important positive environmental effects through Canada's continued participation in international climate change negotiations and engagement and alignment with the U.S. in questions of clean energy and climate change.

This initiative contributed to the following goals and targets:

  • Goal 1: Climate Change - Reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to mitigate the severity and unavoidable impacts of climate change.

  • Target 1.1: Climate Change Mitigation - Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 17% by 2020.

Public Statement Web page

Strengthening the Government of Canada's Weather Monitoring Infrastructure

Investing in the Government of Canada's weather monitoring infrastructure will help ensure its integrity. EC's core federal weather and environmental service capacity relies on this infrastructure to ensure that Canadians are notified and prepared to take appropriate action to protect their lives and property, while at the same time ensuring their long term economic prosperity. It also enables EC to continue to support the mandates and missions of other government departments and agencies. The funding is expected to benefit Canadians by ensuring improvements to Canada's ability to detect significant weather and provide weather forecasts and severe weather warnings. The investments will improve the sustainability and integrity of Canada's weather service ensuring the provision of information that Canadians need to make environmentally sound decisions in their day-to-day activities.

The SEA for this initiative focussed on setting conditions through the environmental assessments that will ensure there are no air and water pollution releases to the environment as a result of the requirement for the siting and construction of new sites for monitoring equipment. The SEA concluded that all investments in the creation of new monitoring sites would have important positive environmental outcomes.

This initiative contributed to the following goals and targets:

  • Goal 2: Air Pollution - Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems.

  • Target 2.1: Air Pollutants - Reduce air pollutants in order to maintain or improve air quality across the country and achieve the emission targets which are currently under development in consultations with provinces and stakeholders.

  • Goal 3: Water Quality - Protect and enhance the quality of water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems.

  • Target 3.8: Marine Water Quality - Reduce the risks to Canadians and impacts on the marine environment posed by pollution from land-based activities.

Public Statement Web page

Supporting Climate Change and Atmospheric Research at Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions

This initiative, "Supporting Climate Change and Atmospheric Research at Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions," supports new funding for climate change and atmospheric research announced in Budget 2011. Funding allocated through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will be targeted to support research under three themes that will advance a better understanding of, and an ability to predict changes in, the climate and atmospheric system.

Overall, the environmental effects of this new funding initiative will be realized through the transfer of knowledge produced by the research projects to the users of this knowledge as decision-makers in priority areas related to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Given that all environmental impacts of this initiative are positive, no mitigation measures are necessary. Positive effects will be enhanced through the building of strong networks and though effective communication of results to users, which are both key elements of this initiative. Furthermore, the program targets priority areas in the field of climate change and atmospheric research and focuses efforts on developing links between universities and governments, where much of the new knowledge will be used.

This initiative contributed to the following goals and targets:

  • Goal 1: Climate Change - Reduce greenhouse gas emission levels to mitigate the severity and unavoidable impacts of climate change.

  • Target 1.1: Climate Change Mitigation - Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 17% by 2020.

  • Goal 2: Air Pollution - Minimize the threats to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems.

  • Target 2.1: Air Pollutants - Reduce air pollutants in order to maintain or improve air quality across the country and achieve the emission targets which are currently under development in consultations with provinces and stakeholders.

Public Statement Web page

Note: It should also be noted that EC contributed to the development of several initiatives led by other departments. Reporting on these initiatives is undertaken by these lead departments.

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1 The internal evaluation will include both the secretariat function, which Environment Canada holds, as well as Environment Canada-specific elements within the FSDS.

 
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