Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d’être

Environment and Climate Change Canada is the lead federal department for a wide range of environmental issues, including taking action on clean growth and climate change. The Department is also engaged in activities aimed at preventing and managing pollution, conserving nature, and predicting weather and environmental conditions. The Department addresses these issues through various actions including the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on clean growth and climate change, engaging with our strategic partners including provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples, monitoring; science-based research, policy and regulatory development, and through the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.

The Department’s program focus reflects the interdependence between environmental sustainability and economic well-being.

Mandate and role

The Department delivers its mandate through other acts and regulations, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the Canada Wildlife Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act.

Under the Department of the Environment Act, the powers, duties and functions of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change extend to matters such as:

The Department works closely with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Parks Canada—its ministerial portfolio partners—to achieve many common goals. In addition, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has secondary or shared responsibility for delivering on other federal departments’ mandates, including the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (Transport Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and Natural Resources Canada), the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act (Natural Resources Canada), and the Emergency Management Act (Public Safety Canada).

For more general information about the Department, see the “Supplementary information” section of this report. For more information on the Department’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister’s mandate letter on the Prime Minister of Canada’s website.

Operating context and key risks

Operating context

Environmental issues have wide ranging implications for social, economic and health decisions for Canadians. The protection and conservation of the environment requires commitment and action by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), as well as by its partners across the federal government, provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders and individual Canadians. The engagement of international partners is also vital in addressing Canadian and global environmental challenges. Ensuring effective engagement with all stakeholders helps to advance innovative and effective policies, regulations and services, and enables a coordinated approach to achieve results that represent the interests of all partners. ECCC is relied upon to provide science-based environmental information and services so that Canadians may make informed decisions relating to their health and safety. The Department seeks to be flexible in order to respond to evolving environmental challenges and changing circumstances, such as addressing global climate change and protecting species at risk.

Key risks
Risks Risk response strategy and effectiveness Link to department’s Core Responsibilities Link to mandate letter commitments and any government‑wide or departmental priorities (as applicable)

Risk 1:

Delivery of results in the short term in areas of shared responsibility could be limited by partner efforts.

In order to ensure the Department can deliver on goals and commitments in areas of shared jurisdiction, ECCC relies on and collaborates with key partners and stakeholders, and enhances and strengthens these domestic and international partnerships. The Department:

  • Continued to work with other government departments, provinces and territories, and Indigenous peoples to implement and report on progress achieved on implementing the Pan-Canadian Framework through an annual synthesis report on the status of implementation to Canadians. Accomplishments include Royal Assent of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.
  • Collaborated with provincial and territorial counterparts to establish a Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada. Accomplishments include a commitment to shared priorities to meet collective species at risk requirements.  
  • Continued to leverage Canada’s leadership in the global climate change arena and remained active in ongoing negotiations for implementing the Paris Agreement, including the Paris Rulebook (adopted at the December 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference). Continued to fulfill Canada’s reporting obligations under the UNFCCC through support for a review of Canada’s  7th National Communication/3rd Biennial Report, and laying the groundwork for the next report to the UNFCCC, the 4th Biennial Report, due in January 2020. 
  • Continued to play a lead role in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and in collaborating with other countries to access and use international space data critical to ECCC’s weather prediction efforts.

Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Conserving Nature

Predicting Weather and Environmental Conditions
Develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement

Enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species

Renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin

Renew nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership

Make weather and climate information available to Canadians.

Risk 2:

Attainment of environmental and climate change objectives could be impacted by external factors beyond ECCC’s control.

Canada’s ability to achieve its climate change and environmental goals is impacted by a number of external factors. To mitigate the impact of these factors, the Department works to engage and support partners, including Indigenous peoples, and to establish clear lines of accountability. ECCC takes a multi-faceted approach to economic growth that focuses on green infrastructure, clean growth, skills and trade. The Department:

  • Established the Low Carbon Economy Fund, a $2 billion investment in initiatives that encourage clean growth and reduce GHG emissions through three distinct funds: The Leadership Fund, the Challenge Fund and the Climate Action Fund.
  • Contributed socio-economic analyses to shape the work of the Government of Canada’s new Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. Led by Finance Canada, the panel was formed to identify key challenges and opportunities in the area of “Mobilizing Finance for Sustainable Growth” and make recommendations on the way forward. The ambition of mobilizing financial services to deliver the investment, ingenuity and influence needed to realize Canada’s leadership opportunity and secure a sustainable economic future will require a committed alliance between business, government and civil society, and determined investment. Climate change opportunity and risk management need to become business-as-usual in financial services, and embedded in everyday business decisions, products and services.
  • Established significant new protected areas through innovative and collaborative approaches to securing lands with its partners. For example, the 14,200 km2 Edéhzhíe Protected Area in the Northwest Territories was established as the first new Indigenous Protected Area under the Nature Legacy Initiative, and marks an important step in reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
  • Remained a strong advocate for referencing environmental issues and climate change in Canada’s free trade agreements. For example, Canada and the European Union completed the first year of their collaboration under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), whose signatories met to consider how CETA can support implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote trade in environmental goods and services that mitigate the effects of climate change.

Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Conserving Nature

Predicting Weather and Environmental Conditions

Develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement

Enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species

Renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin

Renew nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership

Make weather and climate information available to Canadians.

Risk 3:

ECCC may not be able to respond quickly enough to new priorities and expectations to deliver timely results.

The number of priorities within ECCC’s portfolio and mandate continued to grow. Human resource plans and strategies are being developed and implemented to attract and retain the workforce needed to keep pace with this growth, respond to emerging priorities and allow the Department to continue delivering results and meeting the expectations of Canadians. The Department:

  • Increased its skilled workforce, including highly specialized staff to support new initiatives, and continued to attract and retain a diverse workforce, equip staff with modern tools, plan for succession, and promote mental health and well-being.
  • Collaborated with other federal departments to develop a new approach to attracting science graduates and professionals. Under the #iwantasciencejob recruitment initiative, ECCC received over 3,800 applications and over 900 candidates were successful in a preliminary assessment and placed in the inventory for science-based departments.
  • Aligned its human resources to support delivery of the government-wide Nature Legacy Initiative.

Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Conserving Nature

Predicting Weather and Environmental Conditions

Develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement

Enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species

Renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin

Renew nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership

Make available weather and climate information to Canadians.

Risk 4:

The Department may be challenged to keep pace with technological advancements, as well as meeting departmental IM/IT needs.

As technology continues to advance rapidly, the Department’s IM and IT systems must also evolve. ECCC collaborates with external partners, such as Shared Services Canada, for some centralized IT services through formal agreements that ensure Departmental needs are met.

ECCC establishes and maintains IM/IT processes and governance to support strategic and operational priorities, such as contributing high-level information technology and information management expertise to the Department’s Open Data and Open Information initiatives, including the Canadian Centre for Climate Service (CCCS). The CCCS’ Climate Information Portal is now the authoritative online source of Canadian climate information.

Taking Action on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Preventing and Managing Pollution

Conserving Nature

Predicting Weather and Environmental Conditions

Develop a plan to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement

Enhance protection of Canada’s endangered species

Renew our commitment to protect the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin

Renew nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership

Make weather and climate information available to Canadians.

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