Portfolio accomplishments: appearance before the Standing Committee (March 10, 2021)

Environment and Climate Change Canada 2020-2021

In 2020 and in the early months of 2021, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) took actions on key environmental priorities to deliver on Government of Canada commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, ban harmful single-use plastic waste, conserve more of Canada’s lands and water, and protect species at risk. Through science, regulation, and partnership with Indigenous peoples, provincial and territorial governments, and a diverse range of stakeholders, ECCC made significant progress on these priorities in Canada and globally.

Taking action on Clean Growth and Climate Change

To ensure that Canada exceeds its 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act was introduced in the House of Commons in November. Shortly thereafter, the federal government introduced Canada’s strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Economy and a Healthy Environment, which aims to create jobs, support people and communities, and protect the planet.

In November, the federal government also published the proposed Clean Fuel Standards, to ensure that the fossil fuels we use every day will become progressively cleaner, more affordable and increasingly available. Final regulations will be published in late 2021.

The Government of Canada also reached Methane Equivalency Agreements with British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. These agreements will allow strengthened provincial methane regulations to replace the federal regulations for up to five years.

In September, Minister Wilkinson announced the creation of the new Climate Action and Awareness Fund, which will invest $206 million in projects that will strengthen Canada’s capacity to take climate action by empowering youth and communities and boosting climate science and research.

Through the Climate Action Incentive Fund, the federal government began to allocate $60 million in funding to support energy efficiency projects in schools in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick. Early in 2021, the Government of Canada signed that it will work with the U.S. to develop more stringent GHG emissions standards for new vehicles sold in North America post-2025. This will cut pollution and fuel costs for Canadians, and create good jobs in our automotive sector by encouraging the adoption of cleaner vehicles.

On January 25, 2021, Canada and Mexico co-hosted the Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) for Adaptation Action Track session at the Climate Adaptation Summit. Minister Wilkinson delivered remarks during the NBS action track session and during the Ministerial Dialogue portion of the Summit. The action track session focused on Financing for NBS and Indigenous and Youth Leadership on NBS.

Conserving Nature

In 2020, the Nature-Based Climate Solutions initiative was announced, which will invest $631 million over next 10 years. ECCC organized two domestic events on nature-based solutions at Adaptation Canada 2020 (February 2020) and the Assembly of First Nations National Climate Gathering (March 2020), which increased domestic awareness of Canada’s role in the Global Commission on Adaptation.

The Canada Nature Fund supported projects across Canada aiming to build a well-connected network of protected and conserved areas and natural ecosystems, including priority places where there are opportunities to protect and recover species at risk and their habitat. Examples include:

In February 2020, two agreements for the conservation of Southern Mountain Caribou were signed: a Canada-British Columbia Conservation Agreement and a Partnership Agreement between Canada, British Columbia, the West Moberly First Nation and Saulteau First Nation. These agreements were signed at an event in Vancouver with Minister Wilkinson, Ministers from British Columbia, and the Chiefs of the two First Nations.

In October, the governments of Canada and Alberta signed a conservation agreement under the Species at Risk Act that commits to taking actions required to support woodland caribou recovery in Alberta. In autumn 2020, the Prime Minister and Minister Wilkinson announced that Canada had joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People (HAC), which advocates for a global target of conserving 30% of the planet by 2030, promoting Indigenous-led conservation and focusing on areas most important for biodiversity.

In January 2021, the Government of Canada announced that it would contribute up to $55 million to the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund, an investment fund initiated by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The fund aims to restore degraded land, reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and create or support jobs for the most vulnerable populations in developing countries. The contribution is part of Canada’s $2.65 billion climate finance commitment.

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Throughout 2020, the Government of Canada engaged directly with stakeholders and partners – including Indigenous peoples and provinces and territories – to develop a Canada Water Agency (CWA) that benefits all Canadians. In December 2020, the federal government, via PlaceSpeak, launched public consultations on a discussion paper on the role of the CWA in freshwater protection. National and regional freshwater public forums also took place in January and February 2021.

In July 2020, ECCC released the Strategic Assessment of Climate Change to clarify the information needed on greenhouse gas emissions and resilience to climate change, as projects undergo a federal impact assessment. The Strategic Assessment of Climate Change also requires projects that have a lifespan beyond 2050 to put forward a credible plan to get their operations to net zero by 2050.

The Government of Canada continued to collaborate with provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. In July 2020, the second and final phase of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste was released. The Plan outlines timelines for tangible, coordinated action to: improve consumer, business and institution awareness; reduce waste and pollution from aquatic activities including fishing and aquaculture; advance science; support prevention, capture, and clean-up of plastic pollution; and contribute to global action.

In October 2020, Minister Wilkinson announced the next steps in the Government of Canada’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. A key part of the plan is a ban on harmful single-use plastic items where there is evidence that they are found in the environment, are often not recycled, and have readily available alternatives: plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics. The plan will protect wildlife and our waters, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.

The final Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution, which was also released in October, helps inform the Government of Canada’s actions on its commitment to ban harmful single-use plastics.

Science and Technology

In 2020, ECCC continued its efforts to make science more accessible to Canadians, reinforcing the department’s science integrity and reputation, inspiring curiosity and ensuring scientific knowledge is available to decision-makers.

ECCC conducted a government-wide science survey targeting other science-based departments to better understand what works best when communicating science to Canadians, and a SWOT analysis to learn more about our strengths and weaknesses in science communications, with the goal of becoming the best in science communications within the Government of Canada.

The ECCC Speakers Bureau was launched to provide communications opportunities to its scientists. For example, the Ask a Scientist initiative gave Canadians the opportunity to ask their questions directly to the department’s scientists. The department continued to share ECCC’s scientific research with Canadians through the Science Seminar Series, Science Behind the Scenes stories, Exploring by the Seat of your Pants and media outreach.

ECCC implemented successful social media campaigns such as COVID19 PPE Donations, Earth Day, Arctic Ecosystem Conservation, Air Quality Satellite-NO2 and COVID-19, E-Week, World Oceans Day, Indigenous Day, International Year of Plant Health, Small Gas Engine, Montreal Protocol Anniversary, NOAA State of Climate report and Arctic Science Month.

ECCC also delivered on important milestones such as the release of the Climate Science 2050 Report, the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program, and the Increasing Knowledge on Plastic Pollution Initiative.

Internal Communications

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Internal Communications team has faced unprecedented challenges. It was essential to support the wellbeing and productivity of employees working from home, ensure those remaining at worksites could feel safe doing so, and prepare for the eventual return to worksites.

The team quickly communicated information on VPN etiquette and the increase in the number of VPN spaces, and supported the implementation of MS Teams, which has become a permanent tool for communication and collaboration.

Timely and strategic communications were provided to support the release of policies and procedures related to non-medical masks, equipment pick-up and reimbursement, 699 leave, ergonomics, health and safety, mental health and more. To ensure that ECCC employees were kept informed, a COVID-19 Web site for ECCC employees was created, compiling these various resources in one place. The site could be accessed outside of the network.

The Internal Communications teams also provided support to ECCC’s networks, teams, and champions in holding their virtual events, and to the Deputy Ministers to ensure they could participate and engage regularly with employees. To keep the lines of communications open, two Town Halls were held with all staff, and three check-in surveys to gather employee feedback were conducted.

Impact Assessment Agency 2020-2021

January 21, 2021 – The Government of Canada approved the Milton Logistics Hub, subject to 325 conditions. The decision followed a thorough review by an independent panel based on the best available science and evidence, and extensive public engagement. The conditions imposed would make it the most stringently regulated intermodal logistics hub in Canada and among the most stringently regulated in North America.

In addition, Environment and Climate Change Canada intends to work with the Government of Ontario to develop a regional air quality management strategy in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.

January 13, 2021 – Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the purchase of 268 hectares of land surrounding the existing Portobello Creek National Wildlife Area located 44 kilometres east of Fredericton.

The protected wildlife area was set aside for conservation in 1995. It's used by hikers and kayakers and is home to 37 provincially rare plant species. It also serves as a forested floodplain for waterfowl and other animals.

"Protecting a greater area within the Portobello Creek region will reduce threats to species at risk, such as the Canada warbler, common nighthawk, eastern wood pewee, and the least bittern," according to the government release.

Six parcels of land, totalling about 178 hectares, were purchased from J.D. Irving, Ltd., while an additional 90 hectares were acquired from Five Islands Forest Development Ltd, bringing the wildlife area's total footprint to just over 3,200 hectares.

Funding for this initiative comes from the Nature Legacy Initiative, a $1.3 billion investment included in the 2018 Federal Budget, according to the release.

January 11, 2021 – Environment and Climate Change Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, announced that Chevron Canada, Equinor Canada, and BHP Petroleum (New Ventures) can move forward with exploratory drilling projects east of St. John's, N.L. The three projects will create secure jobs and benefit the economy, while supporting sustainable development and protecting the environment.

The companies have proposed using offshore platforms, supply ships and helicopters to conduct exploration drilling, well testing and other activity beginning as early as this year. They will still have to secure other federal or provincial permits they might need, such as from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

December 21, 2020 – To date, 20 of the most cherished heritage sites in Canada have met the requirements to be inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List and represent some of humanity's most outstanding achievements and nature's most inspiring creations. The Government of Canada recognizes the Outstanding Universal Value of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Canada and is committed to protecting them for future generations.

That’s why today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced a Government of Canada investment of $59.9 million over 3 years to continue implementing federal commitments under the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan.

December 18, 2020 – Federal government proposes regulations for Clean Fuel Standards that are expected to increase the cost of a litre of gasoline by up to 11 cents over the next decade while reducing emissions by nearly 21 megatonnes by 2030.

December 17, 2020 – The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced the launch of public consultations to help establish the new Canada Water Agency and improve freshwater management across Canada.

Water challenges such as droughts, floods, and deteriorating water quality are intensifying, due in large part to climate change. Canadians are seeing these costly impacts first-hand in their communities, across the country. That’s why the Government of Canada is establishing the Canada Water Agency to find the best ways to keep our water safe, clean, and well managed. The Canada Water Agency will be established in close collaboration with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, and other partners.

December 15, 2020 – Minister Jonathan Wilkinson established the Minister’s Advisory Council on Impact Assessments. The Council is to advise the Minister on whether the new impact assessment regime is achieving its intended objectives to be efficient, transparent, predictable, capable of identifying issues early in the process, and support decision-making in the public interest.

Council members were appointed based on their diverse and varied backgrounds relevant to impact assessment, governance, and decision-making in the public interest. The composition reflects a balance of experience, gender and regional diversity. In addition, several members represent the interests of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and bring a strong Indigenous perspective to the Council.

December 11, 2020 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Environment Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catharine McKenna and Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, announced Canada’s long-awaited new climate plan, which includes a host of measures aimed at achieving Canada’s 2030 emissions targets and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The plan, entitled A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, aims to create two million green jobs and commits $15.2 billion on top of the $60 billion previously allocated to implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

This plan builds on the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. It continues down the path that Canadians, their governments, and businesses have been setting.

This plan is a cornerstone of the government’s commitment in the 2020 Speech from the Throne to create over one million jobs, restoring employment to pre-pandemic levels. The plan includes 64 new measures and $15 billion in investments in addition to the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s $6 billion for clean infrastructure announced this fall as part of its growth plan.

December 1, 2020An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act came into force. The Act strengthens transparency for the Government of Canada by expanding the number of federal organizations—from 27 to more than 95—that must contribute to developing the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. These organizations must also report on their contributions through their own departmental sustainable development strategies, with measurable targets and time frames that contribute to meeting the goals of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

Public consultation will continue to shape future federal sustainable development strategies through a mandated 120-day consultation period with all Canadians.

November 30, 2020 – The Minister of Finance unveiled the government’s Fall Economic Statement, which will help fight climate change while building back better, including the following:

We will also continue to work with our partners across government on the new Natural Climate Solutions for Agriculture Fund, as well as our partners in the private sector on initiatives like the Sustainable Finance Action Council, with a commitment of $7.3 million over three years to create a public-private sustainable-finance-action council aimed at developing a well-functioning sustainable-finance market in Canada. In addition, the Fall Economic Statement announced that the government will invest in the future of the Biosphere with $15 million committed over five years to support the transfer of operational responsibility for the Montreal Biosphere Museum to the City of Montreal as part of agreements with the City and the Government of Quebec. This transfer will allow the Biosphere to continue its critical mission of educating Canadians on climate change, nature conservation, and pollution, including plastic waste.

November 19, 2020 – The federal government introduced Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which establishes the framework for national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to attain net-zero emissions by 2050.

November 13, 2020 – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Peter Schiefke, announced that the Government of Canada is providing $2,256,554 to 16 science-based research projects to learn more about the impacts of plastic pollution on our natural environment and our health. This funding is provided through the Increasing Knowledge on Plastic Pollution Initiative.

The Government of Canada recently published the final Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution, which looks at the presence of plastic pollution and its effects on the environment and human health. This assessment confirms that plastic pollution is everywhere and negatively impacts our environment, but it also determined that there are gaps in our knowledge. The funding announced today seeks to fill these knowledge gaps and help us move toward a cleaner, healthier world.

The Parliamentary Secretary made the announcement during the virtual Zero Waste Conference, where he also emphasized the importance of collaboration in research to support the implementation of Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda.

October 29, 2020 – The federal government is offering $750 million in interest-free loans to help oil and gas companies slash methane emissions. Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said Thursday that the new program - first promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in April - will help Canada continue to sell oil while it aims to achieve "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050. It will boost efforts by oil and gas companies to reduce operational emissions, keep jobs and strengthen competitiveness "for decades to come," he said. The Pembina Institute endorsed the new $750 million loan fund Thursday, with senior analyst Jan Gorski stating during O'Regan's press conference that Canadian technology already exists to eliminate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and that the program "points us in the right direction."

October 23, 2020 – The governments of Canada and Alberta have reached an agreement for the conservation and recovery of woodland caribou in Alberta.

Alberta’s caribou populations have dramatically declined due to habitat changes and increased predation. The governments believe entering into a conservation agreement under section 11 of the federal Species at Risk Act demonstrates meaningful progress that will benefit caribou in Alberta and its survival in the wild. “I am pleased to announce that the governments of Canada and Alberta have signed a conservation agreement under the Species at Risk Act that commits to taking actions required to support woodland caribou recovery in Alberta. The Government of Alberta along with Indigenous peoples, industry stakeholders, and many others have taken steps to support caribou recovery, and I believe this agreement will help fulfill obligations to future generations of Canadians. The Government of Canada recognizes that at this time, this collaborative approach—as opposed to an order under the Species at Risk Act—represents the best path forward for the conservation and recovery of boreal and southern mountain caribou in Alberta.” – The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Canada

October 15, 2020 – The federal government says it's investing $20 million in the nuclear industry to help Canada meet its target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.The investment in Oakville Ontario's Terrestrial Energy is meant to help the firm bring small modular nuclear reactors to market. "By helping to bring these small reactors to market, we are supporting significant environmental and economic benefits, including generating energy with reduced emissions, highly skilled job creation and Canadian intellectual property development," said Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in a media statement.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited says it sees three major uses for SMRs in Canada:

Thursday, October 8, 2020 – Prime Minister Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that they will each chip in $295 million to support production at Ford Motor Co.'s plant in Oakville, Ont. The funding is part of a three-year agreement worth nearly $2 billion that was announced last month between the automaker and Unifor, the union that represents autoworkers in Canada. This funding is for the mass production of electric vehicles and the batteries that power them - a plan they said would help the country's automotive industry stay competitive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also secure 5,000 jobs throughout the automotive industry at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted workers everywhere to worry about their livelihood, according to the Prime Minister.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 – The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, announced federal funding of $68.4 million over three years to help control, research and mitigate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle on Canada’s forests.

The funding includes:

The organizations will work together to address the challenges posed by the spread of the mountain pine beetle, one of the most damaging pests in western Canada. The mountain pine beetle outbreak has had significant negative effects on Alberta pine forests.

This funding includes $24 million for fiscal year 2020–2021 to address the outbreak of mountain pine beetle in Alberta and the Rocky Mountain National Parks while mitigating negative impacts on the forest sector and communities. Since 2010, Natural Resources Canada has invested $12.9 million in mountain pine beetle– related research in Alberta.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 – Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the plan to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, stir sticks, six-pack rings, utensils, straws and some food ware made of hard-to-recycle plastics by end of 2021.

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