Appearance before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development – May 12, 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 by proposing to ban certain harmful single-use plastic items, 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 set Canada on a path to achieving a prosperous net-zero greenhouse gas emissions future by the year 2050, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act was introduced in the House of Commons in November. Shortly thereafter, to ensure that Canada exceeds it 2030 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government introduced A Healthy Economy and a Healthy Environment—Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan (SCP), which aims to create jobs, support people and communities, and protect the planet. The strengthened climate plan included 64 new or strengthened measures, as well as $15 billion in new investments.
In December 2020 the federal government also published proposed regulations for the Clean Fuel Standard. The Clean Fuel Standard will reduce the emissions associated with the production, delivery and use of fuels in Canada, create an incentive to use less-polluting fuels and encourage increased production of clean fuels in Canada. Once fully implemented, the Clean Fuel Standard will help cut more than 20 million tonnes of GHG emissions in 2030. Final regulations are targeted for publication in late 2021.
The federal government also published proposed regulations for the Federal GHG Offset System in March 2021. The Federal GHG Offset System will provide an incentive for projects that reduce GHG emissions from sources not covered by carbon pricing, and those that increase GHG removals from the atmosphere. It will generate economic opportunities in sectors such as forestry, agriculture and waste. Final regulations are targeted for publication in late 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 reached Methane Equivalency Agreements with British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. These agreements will allow the respective provincial methane regulations to replace the federal regulations for up to five years.
In September 2020 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.
ECCC is working closely with Finance Canada to stand up the Sustainable Finance Action Council. The Action Council will make recommendations on critical market infrastructure needed to attract and scale sustainable finance in Canada including enhancing climate disclosures, ensuring access to useful data on sustainability and climate risks, and developing standards for investments to be identified as sustainable.
Early in 2021 the Government of Canada signaled 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 February 25, 2021, the Net-Zero Advisory Body was launched with 14 members who bring together a diverse range of expertise in science, business, labour, policy-making, rural economic development, and Indigenous governance. Within the first three months of its establishment the advisory body will provide a summary of net-zero pathways work completed domestically and internationally.
ECCC actively engages with international partners to advance the transition to a global low carbon and climate resilient economy, including through the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement. ECCC contributes to global climate efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the G7 and G20, as well as other multilateral and regional fora.
As part of Canada’s $2.65 billion international climate finance commitment, the Government of Canada announced a $9.5 million contribution to the Climate Finance Access Network (CFAN) in June 2020 ensuring that more countries have the capacity to secure climate financing for priority investments in climate resilience and energy transition. ECCC was instrumental in developing the vision for this initiative, including by providing seed funding to support the creation of CFAN.
In seeking input on Canada’s international climate finance approach the Government of Canada hosted a series of virtual events with representatives from domestic and international civil society, academia and the private sector to help shape the future of Canada’s international climate finance for developing countries. The government also met with Indigenous peoples to gain their unique perspectives.
In August 2020 Minister Wilkinson co-chaired a ministerial roundtable on climate mitigation with the Minister of International Development. A What We Heard report describing what the government heard through these consultations was published in December 2020.
In December 2020 ECCC supported the Prime Minister’s participation in the Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the United Kingdom and the United Nations Secretary General. Minister Wilkinson also co-convened the Ministerial on Climate Action in July 2020 and again in March 2021 to help drive global momentum on climate change.
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.
On February 23, 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden announced the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership (Roadmap) to relaunch cooperation on a number of important files, including on climate and the environment. Under the Roadmap the Canada-U.S. High Level Dialogue on Climate Ambition (Dialogue) was created to establish a binational forum to discuss policy alignment and solutions to cut emissions in key sectors and help advance existing work; Minister Wilkinson is Canada’s co-Chair.
In March 2021 Canada and the United Kingdom convened the first-ever Global Summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance—the world’s leading initiative seeking to accelerate the transition away from traditional coal-fired electricity. Minister Wilkinson and his U.K. co-Chair welcomed 10 new members to the Alliance including Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and Ontario Power Generation. They were joined by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and nearly 20 other leading global figures pushing for urgent action on the phase out of emissions from coal power.
The 2020 Fall Economic Statement announced the $3.9 billion Nature-Based Climate Solutions initiative. Of which,
ECCC will manage $631 million of this over the next 10 years through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund.
NRCan will manage the Growing Canada’s Forests Fund including $400 million for tree planting that supports habitat restoration for species at risk.
AAFC will manage the Agricultural Climate Solutions Fund. Activities under the $3.9 billion initiative will reduce net GHG emissions, benefit biodiversity, and support climate change adaptation and human well-being.
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:
A collaboration with the Government of Yukon and First Nations of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin, and Gwich’in Tribal Council to support the Peel Watershed Regional Land-Use Plan.
Funding of $14.3 million to the Province of Nova Scotia to help protect important wildlife habitat, conserve and restore wetlands, and expand protected areas.
Funding to the Government of Nunavut to establish the Agguttinni Territorial Park, a protected area site that will include one quarter of the Barnes Ice Cap, a significant source of freshwater for Baffin Island, as well as numerous cultural sites of importance for Inuit, important bird areas, and key habitat for Polar Bears and Caribou.
A contribution of $16.1 million toward the Qat’muk Indigenous protected and conserved areas in the Central Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, in partnership with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Government of British Columbia, and a number of foundations including Nature Conservancy of Canada, Columbia Basin Trust, Wyss Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Patagonia, and Donner Canadian Foundation, Community Nominated Priority Places for species at risk in British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
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 2020 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 December 2020 the final Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer Tarandus Caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry, which now identifies critical habitat in northern Saskatchewan’s Boreal Shield ranges.
Canada is advocating for an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework as a way of focusing the world’s collective efforts to stem the loss of biodiversity and degradation of nature. To this aim, 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 world’s lands and oceans by 2030.
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.
In February 2021 ECCC published its Imminent Threat Assessment for Wood Bison on the Species at Risk Public Registry following the January 2020 announcement that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change had formed the opinion that wood bison are facing imminent threats to their recovery.
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.
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 proposed 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 proposal to ban harmful single-use plastics. A proposed Order to add plastic manufactured items on Schedule 1 to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act was also published on October 10, 2020.
On April 13, introduced Bill C-28, the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, which codifies for the first time in a federal law a right to a healthy environment, and provides a modernized legislative framework for the management of chemicals and other substances.
Predicting Weather and Environmental Conditions
Since the beginning of the pandemic the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) has continued delivering 24/7 mission critical services that help save lives, protect property, and foster economic prosperity. These services include:
weather and air quality forecasts and warnings;
specialized products supporting safe air navigation;
marine transportation, and military operations;
targeted services in the event of volcanic eruptions and nuclear releases;
critical water level and flow information to support provincial and territorial flood forecasting;
as well as expert advice and services to key inter-jurisdictional water boards.
In 2021 the MSC marks 150 years of providing quality weather forecasting services and information to Canadians. As one of the nation’s oldest government institutions the MSC continues to help Canadians make informed decisions about their health and safety and our economic prosperity.
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 performed 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 COVID-19 pandemic Personal Protective Equipment (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, NOAA State of Climate report and Arctic Science Month.
ECCC began work on a six-year project to renovate its world-class atmosphere observatory in Alert, Nunavut, which will provide long-term stability to an important piece of ECCC’s climate change and air quality monitoring program
In April of both 2020 and 2021 ECCC successfully published and submitted the latest editions of its annual National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This report presents the latest information on greenhouse gas emissions and removals that occur within Canada, and provides the scientific foundation upon which sound climate change decision making and policies are based.
ECCC, jointly with Health Canada (HC), continued to deliver the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) to assess and manage the potential health and ecological risks from chemicals and other substances through science-based risk assessments and risk management activities. CMP stakeholder engagement included meetings of the Industry Coordinating Group and the Stakeholder Advisory Council along with stakeholder consultations on the development of the New Substances Program’s approach to remissions.
Under the CMP several ECCC research projects are addressing issues of fate, bioaccumulation and the effects of CMP priority substances. ECCC is committed to continuous improvement and will work with HC to continue to protect people and the environment from harmful substances, including by strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).
Impact Assessment Agency 2020-2021
March 1, 2021 – The Minister of Environment and Climate Change approved the proposed Contrecoeur Port Terminal Expansion Project in Montreal following a thorough, science-based environmental assessment process led by the Agency. The Minister’s decision sets out 330 legally binding conditions that include measures to protect human health, fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, wetlands, First Nations use of land and resources, natural and cultural heritage and species at risk.
February 9-11, 2021 – The Agency and the First Nation Major Project Coalition co-hosted a virtual national Indigenous Capacity Support Conference with program partners with the objective of building awareness of tools and supports for Indigenous organizations and communities in the impact assessment process.
January 21, 2021 – The Government of Canada approved the Milton Logistics Hub, subject to 325 legally binding 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 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 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.
June 4, 2020 - Environment and Climate Change Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, released a Ministerial Regulation to improve the efficiency of the assessment process for exploratory drilling projects in an area of the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore, subject to a series of conditions that focus on protecting the environment and ensuring meaningful Indigenous engagement.
This Regulation provides that exploratory drilling projects in a specific area of the Canada- Newfoundland and Labrador offshore are excluded from the requirement to undergo a project-specific federal Impact Assessment. The Regulation was made in consideration of the work done during the Regional Assessment of Exploratory Drilling East of Newfoundland and Labrador. This work was undertaken as part of a collaborative process between the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Parks Canada Agency 2020-2021
Signing of final federal agreement with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for the establishment of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve.
Deployment of fire management personnel to assist in wildfire mitigation efforts in the Western United States. Parks Canada fire management personnel also assisted in fighting wildfires in Australia in January 2020.
Transfer of 30 wood bison from Elk Island National Park to the Republic of Sakha of the Russian Federation to establish a population of wood bison.
Appointment of Parks Canada’s first-ever Parks Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Restoration.
Investment of $59.9 million over 3 years to continue implementing federal commitments under the Wood Buffalo National Park World Heritage Site Action Plan.
Conservation and Restoration Program investments targeted at protecting and restoring healthy, resilient ecosystems and contributing to the recovery of species at risk:
protection of important habitats at Sable Island National Park Reserve to better understand the influence of the wild horses on its ecosystems;
restoration of three important sockeye salmon streams in the Cheewaht Lake watershed within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in partnership with Ditidaht First Nation; and
restoration of ecosystems and the recovery of species at risk in Fathom Five National Marine Park and Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay Islands and Thousand Islands national parks.
Purchase of a 405-acre property in Greenwich, Prince Edward Island. The property - home to many species at risk and rare species – is adjacent to Prince Edward Island National Park at Greenwich and will be added to the park.
Recognition of the national historic significance of two persons and two events associated with Black History in Canada, including the Enslavement of African People in Canada.
Recognition of the Residential School System as an important and defining event in Canadian history, and designation of two former residential school sites as national historic sites (former Portage La Prairie Indian Residential School in Manitoba, and former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia).
Awarded $42 million contract and began construction on Parks Canada’s new artifact collection facility that will ensure approximately 25 million artifacts will be safeguarded for future generations.
Connecting Canadians and Visitor Experience
After a temporary suspension of visitor services, reopening Parks Canada places to Canadians with adaptive measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, keep visitors and staff safe, and help support domestic tourism (visitation of 13.3 million).
Delivery of critical services to Canadians during COVID-19 pandemic, including avalanche control and highway maintenance, wildlife response and management, law enforcement, search and rescue and water management for watersheds across Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.
Support for small businesses paying commercial rent, providing businesses operating in national parks and historic sites access to the same rent relief available to small businesses in Canada.
Completion of 2020 Minister’s Roundtable on Parks Canada, which included virtual engagement sessions with representatives from organizations with an interest in Parks Canada and nation-wide online public consultations and generated feedback from more than 13,000 Canadians.
Installation of over 170 electric vehicle charging stations available for visitors to use at most popular Parks Canada places.
Continuing with rehabilitation efforts following the impact of post-tropical storm Dorian at Green Gables Heritage Place and PEI National Park, including Cavendish Campground.
Partial opening of Georges Island National Historic Site to visitors during 2020 operating season for the first time in generations.
Completion and reopening of the jetty at the Chambly Canal National Historic Site enabling thousands of visitors to once again use this iconic site each year.
Infrastructure investment to establish the first front country campground in Mount Revelstoke National Park and partial opening to visitors in 2020. The campground will be fully operational for the 2021 visitor season, pending COVID-19 restrictions.
Free access to all Parks Canada administered locations in Saskatchewan for Métis Nation – Saskatchewan citizens, and free access to Lower Fort Garry and Riel House national historic sites in Manitoba for Manitoba Metis Federation citizens.
Symbolic re-naming of day-use area in Point Pelee National Park from "Pioneer" to “Madbin Jina”.
Signing of Terms of Reference with Métis Nation – Saskatchewan agreeing to explore and discuss a full range of options related to the future management of Batoche National Historic Site.
Government of Canada and Treaty One Nation celebrated at Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site to mark the 149th commemoration of Treaty No. 1 and begin the countdown to the Treaty 150 commemoration which will take place in August 2021.
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