Government of Canada’s response to reports tabled by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development

News release

April 20, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, responded to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) tabling of new reports.

The Commissioner’s latest reports reviewed federal programs and policies for the 2019 to October 2022 time period to ensure they were achieving their stated objectives. The reports contain a series of findings and recommendations that are primarily directed at the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).  ECCC and NRCan are already taking steps that address a number of the Commissioner’s recommendations and are committed to undertaking new measures to continue improving program delivery in line with the Commissioner’s observations.

It is important to note that last week Canada submitted its National Inventory Report (NIR) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) between 1990 and 2021. Canada’s emissions were 53 million tonnes lower in 2021 than in 2019 pre-pandemic levels, and among all the G7 countries, Canada’s emissions bounced back the least following the 2020 COVID crisis. Canada has been able to cut emissions while growing the economy, demonstrating that Canada’s plan to reduce emissions while creating good-paying jobs is working. And regulatory measures continue to play an important role in Canada’s success.

ECCC works continuously to improve its methodology and emissions tracking and welcomes the Commissioner’s recommendations, which support ongoing ECCC work currently well underway.

Canadians are providing some of the world’s cutting-edge technology in emissions tracking and detection. The Government of Canada invests in and champions this technology. Canada’s GHG reporting is based on the best available data and science and is aligned with international best practices. In line with the Commissioner’s recommendations, ECCC has been making improvements to the methodologies used in the NIR. For example, the 2023 report includes improvements to quantifying and reporting on methane emissions data. This is a big focus of the NIR and we can expect to see further improvements in next year’s report. The CESD audit will help to inform these revisions.

In addition to climate change, the world is facing an unprecedented biodiversity loss. The Government of Canada continues to invest in the biggest ongoing effort to protect and conserve Canada’s lands and waters in the country’s history.

The Government’s commitment to plant two billion trees in the next decade is a crucial part of Canada’s climate plan. In the last six months alone, NRCan has signed six Contribution Agreements with provinces and territories to plant trees as part of the program, and over 50 additional agreements with other partners. The Government is making significant progress and remains confident it will plant two billion trees and reduce emissions through the program in the next decade.

During the first year of the program, the 2021 planting season, the Government supported the planting of some 29M trees, fully allocating the funding available for the year.

The first year was instrumental in understanding the needs, concerns, and benefits of the program. Through it, we heard from existing and prospective partners about the need to provide greater clarity on the program’s objectives and monitoring requirements, so that applicants can meaningfully participate.

The Government also established an external advisory committee of experts on nature-based climate solutions to provide advice on program delivery to maximize emissions reductions, and on its potential biodiversity and human well-being co-benefits. Using the lessons learned from the first year of the program together with ongoing advice received from experts, we have been taking steps – many of which are in line with the Commissioner’s recommendations – to adjust the program design to ensure its long-term success.

The seven Agreements in Principle (AiPs) with British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, as well as six initial contribution agreements with provinces and territories that were finalized in the last six months, represent a significant first step and serve as a strong foundation for future agreements and discussions with provinces and territories. This includes Minister Wilkinson’s forthcoming meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts in May 2023. 

Relatedly, and in line with the Commissioner’s recommendation, ECCC, NRCan, and other responsible departments and stakeholders are already conducting a review of Canada’s Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) accounting emissions approach, including the reference-level approach used to account for emissions and removals from the managed forests and harvested wood products. Working with ECCC, NRCan began work on this review in 2022 and started engagement with stakeholders on this review in March 2023.

While we continually review our science and modelling tools, with the implementation of planned improvements, we remain confident that a mature 2 Billion Trees program will reduce emissions and meaningfully contribute to Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate targets. 

The protection of species and environmental stewardship is a shared responsibility among the provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, and the federal government. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the safety net and emergency order provisions are measures of last resort. They are not the only tools to provide for species recovery. Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of species at risk across the country in collaboration with partners, and to fulfilling its obligations under SARA.


“Canada is leading the G7 in emissions reductions since 2019 and produced 53 million fewer tonnes of carbon less in 2021 than in 2019 – the equivalent of taking 11 million cars off Canada’s roads. Our plan, built on pollution pricing, strategic investments and strong regulation, is working. We will continue to improve our emissions tracking every year as we push toward our 2030 emissions reduction target.”

“Canada continues to use every tool at our disposal in protecting and conserving nature, including species at risk. We can only do this in partnership with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples and many stakeholders. The recommendations from the Commissioner are important to help ensure the Government can deliver on its environmental priorities. We look forward to working together to keep delivering a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”

– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Planting two billion trees in the next decade is an ambitious goal. It is a crucial part of Canada’s climate plan and will help us address biodiversity loss, too. I am fully committed to getting it done, and to getting it right. I am grateful for the Commissioner’s recommendations that are intended to help us achieve the objectives that we set. Many of the actions that the Commissioner recommends we take are currently underway. We will double down on these efforts and we will move forward on new ones that are in line with his additional recommendations to further improve this program.

As the Commissioner alludes in his report, we are working and learning in real time with experts from across the country. In standing up this program, building associated supply chain and negotiating and implementing of agreements with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and municipalities and others, lessons have been learned and a suite of actions have been taken. We have also appointed a panel to advise on the program, and many of the thoughtful recommendations that the Commissioner provided are actions that we are currently implementing.

It is important to note that the Commissioner’s report covers a period up to October 2022. Since that date, we have signed contribution agreements with six provinces and territories, and over 50 additional agreements with other partners under which millions of trees are being planted. Earlier this week, I announced one of these six contribution agreements – which is a two-year agreement with the Government of British Columbia that will support the planting of over 37 million trees and reduce emissions equivalent to removing over 467,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

Provincial and territorial collaboration is critical to the success of the 2 Billion Trees program as the Commissioner has said, and we continue to work diligently in this area. I will be underlining this at the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers in May. We look forward to further agreements and will provide additional updates on the program in the summer.”

– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources

Quick facts

  • To continuously improve the quality of Canada’s GHG emissions modelling, the Government of Canada will work with external modellers to ensure robust and reliable modelling to inform the basis of future national climate plans. The CESD audit will help to inform these discussions.

  • ECCC is committed to ensuring that policies and processes are in place to guide the use of the safety net and emergency order provisions to play an appropriate role in the protection and recovery of species at risk and will work with Parks Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada as appropriate.

  • ECCC, Parks Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to deliver on obligations under SARA by publishing recovery strategies, management and action plans and implementation reports.

  • As was undertaken last year, the NRCan’s 2 Billion Trees program intends to provide a complete and full update to Canadians in summer 2023 on the progress made during the 2022 planting season once the final number of trees planted during the second year of the program from our partners have been received. 

  • Provinces and territories are key participants in the 2 Billion Trees program as Crown landowners and public land managers and supporting biodiversity benefits is a key co-benefit of the program that can be maximized if done right, and we appreciate the Commissioner’s recommendations to this effect.

  • To maximize these benefits, the program decided in December 2021 that provinces and territories needed to sign AiPs with the Government of Canada before submitting projects through the provincial and territorial stream. While signing the AiPs has led to some provincial and territorial proposals being put on hold for the 2022 planting year, these AiPs set a robust framework that outline a shared commitment for permanently increasing the amount of forest that is covered through the planting of trees, as well as the enhancement of biodiversity, habitat restoration, carbon sequestration and monitoring for projects taking place on provincial and territorial Crown lands. 


Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

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