Executive summary

The 2015 Progress Report of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy presents information on how the federal government is implementing the 2013–2016 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS), including progress toward its goals and targets. Together with the FSDS, it supports the purpose of the Federal Sustainable Development Act by making environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to Parliament.

This executive summary provides a high-level view as of 2015 of progress on each of the 2013–2016 FSDS goals and targets. The balance of the report provides additional information on the goals and targets.

2013–2016 FSDS Goals and Targets Progress Statements
Addressing climate change and air quality

Goal 1
Climate Change—In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels and adapt to unavoidable impacts.

As of 2013, Canada’s anthropogenic GHG emissions were 23 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) below 2005 levels. The Government of Canada continued to pursue a sector-by-sector approach to regulating GHG emissions. It also continued to help Canadians and businesses decrease their GHG emissions through actions such as supporting the development and deployment of innovative clean technologies.

Over the past years, understanding about adaptation has improved and progress has been made through broadened engagement and policies, plans and practices to increase resilience to climate change.

Target 1.1
Climate Change Mitigation—Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada’s total GHG emissions 17% by 2020.

As of 2013, Canada’s GHG emissions level was 3.1% below the 2005 level of 749 Mt CO2 eq.

Target 1.2
Climate Change Adaptation—Facilitate reduced vulnerability of individuals, communities, regions and economic sectors to the impacts of climate change through the development and provision of information and tools.

The federal government continued to develop and share scientific knowledge and tools to help provinces and territories, communities, sectors and individual Canadians manage climate risks.

Goal 2
Air Pollution—Minimize the threat to air quality so that the air Canadians breathe is clean and supports healthy ecosystems.

Many threats to air quality have been reduced: the outdoor concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and peak concentrations of ground-level ozone (O3) have decreased substantially over the past two decades.

National annual average concentrations of O3 and annual average and peak concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5)—the main components of smog—have remained relatively stable since 2000.

Target 2.1
Outdoor Air Pollutants—Improve outdoor air quality by ensuring compliance with new or amended regulated emission limits by 2020 and thus reducing emissions of air pollutants in support of Air Quality Management System (AQMS) objectives.

Some improvements are evident. New and amended regulations for air pollutants have contributed to continued decreases in emission levels of four key air pollutants: emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) were 28% to 63% lower in 2013 than in 1990.

Target 2.2
Indoor Air Quality—Help protect the health of Canadians by providing health-based guidance and tools to support actions to better manage indoor air quality.

The federal government continued to develop guidelines, mitigation measures, product standards and communication initiatives on indoor air quality.

The indoor air health risk assessment for NO2 was completed and formed the basis of the Residential Indoor Air Quality Guideline for NO2 published in August 2015.

The government also completed health risk assessments to support the development of draft Indoor Air Reference Level determinations for certain VOCs.
Maintaining water quality and availability

Goal 3
Water Quality and Water Quantity—Protect and enhance water so that it is clean, safe and secure for all Canadians and supports healthy ecosystems.

Over the past decade, freshwater quality and quantity in Canadian rivers has remained generally stable.

In terms of drinking water quality, most boil water advisories were issued as precautionary measures during equipment maintenance or repair rather than due to detection of pathogens in treated water.

Target 3.1
On-reserve First Nations Water and Wastewater Systems—Increase the percentage of on-reserve First Nations water systems with low risk ratings from 27% to 50% by 2015. Increase the percentage of on-reserve First Nations wastewater systems with low risk ratings from 35% to 70% by 2015.

The percentage of on-reserve First Nations drinking water systems with low risk ratings increased from 27% in 2009–2011 to 57% in 2014–2015.

Forty-eight percent of on-reserve First Nations wastewater systems had low risk ratings in 2014–2015 compared with 38% in 2009–2011.

Target 3.2
Drinking Water Quality—Help protect the health of Canadians by developing up to 15 water quality guidelines/guidance documents by 2016.

Between 2013 and 2015, 10 new or updated drinking water quality guidelines/guidance documents were approved by provinces and territories, on track to achieve 15 by 2016.

Target 3.3
Great Lakes—Canadian Areas of Concern—Take federal actions to restore beneficial uses for delisting five Canadian Areas of Concern (AOC) and to reduce the number of impaired beneficial uses in the remaining AOC by 25% by 2018.

Since 2010, no AOC have been delisted. However, a 2014 assessment revealed that ongoing action by the federal government and its partners has decreased the number of beneficial uses considered “impaired” by 33% (from 120 to 80) since each AOC was initially assessed.

Target 3.4
Great Lakes—Contribute to the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes by developing and gaining bi-national acceptance of objectives for the management of nutrients in Lake Erie by 2016 and for the other Great Lakes as required.

In 2014, representatives of Canada, the U.S., Ontario and the eight Great Lakes States agreed to develop phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie by spring 2016. Public consultations were held in summer 2015 on a 40% reduction target for Lake Erie.

Target 3.5
St. Lawrence RiverTake federal actions to reduce pollutants in order to improve water quality, conserve biodiversity and ensure beneficial uses in the St. Lawrence River by 2016.

Phosphorus levels at the majority of water quality monitoring stations along the St. Lawrence River exceeded water quality guidelines more than 50% of the time during the period 2010–2012. Nitrogen levels exceeded water quality guidelines more than 50% of the time at only one site.

Target 3.6
Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay—Reduce an estimated 2000 kg of phosphorus loadings to Lake Simcoe by 2017, which will support the Province of Ontario’s target to reduce phosphorus inputs into Lake Simcoe to 44 000 kg/year by 2045. Reduce an estimated 2000 kg of phosphorus loadings to south-eastern Georgian Bay watersheds by 2017.

Phosphorus reduction projects completed by March 2015 under the Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-up Fund are preventing approximately 4040 kg of phosphorus per year from entering the Lake Simcoe watershed.

Similarly, stewardship projects are preventing an estimated 124 kg of phosphorus per year from reaching South-eastern Georgian Bay and its tributary rivers.

Target 3.7
Lake Winnipeg Basin—By 2017, reduce phosphorus inputs to water bodies in the Lake Winnipeg Basin, in support of the Province of Manitoba’s overall plan to reduce phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg by 50% to pre-1990 levels.

As of March 2015, stewardship projects supported by the Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund were preventing an estimated 14 800 kg of phosphorus per year from entering Lake Winnipeg and its tributary rivers.

Phosphorus levels in Lake Winnipeg were 100% higher in 2013 than pre-1990: 0.1 milligrams of phosphorus per litre compared with 0.05.

Target 3.8
Marine Pollution—Releases of Harmful Pollutants—Protect the marine environment by an annual 5% reduction in the number of releases of harmful pollutants in the marine environment by vessels identified during pollution patrol from 2013–2016.

With a 70% increase in patrol hours from 2009–2010, 44 spills by identified vessels were detected in fiscal year 2013–2014 compared with 21 in 2009–2010, an average annual increase of 20%.

Target 3.9
Marine Pollution—Disposal at Sea—Ensure that permitted disposal at sea is sustainable, such that 85% of disposal site monitoring events do not identify the need for site management action (such as site closure) from 2013–2016.

Since 2004, the proportion of permitted disposal at sea sites requiring no 'management action' has exceeded the 85% performance target, indicating that Canada’s ocean disposal sites are being used sustainably.

In 2013–2014, the government completed monitoring projects at 11 ocean disposal sites, or 12% of actively used sites.

Target 3.10
Agri-environmental Performance Metrics—Achieve a value between 81 and 100 on each of the Water Quality and Soil Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Metrics by March 31, 2030.

The Soil Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Metric rose from 66 in 1981 to 77 in 2006 as farm management improved. Meanwhile, the Water Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Metric declined from 94 in 1981 to 78 in 2006.

Target 3.11
Wastewater and Industrial Effluent—Reduce risks associated with effluent from wastewater (sewage) and industrial sectors by 2020.

Regulatory compliance reduces the risks of effluent released to the environment in rivers. The indicators measuring the quality of metal mining and pulp and paper effluent show stable or improved regulatory compliance.

Target 3.12
Water Resource Management—Facilitate sustainable water resource management through the collection of data and the development and dissemination of knowledge from 2013–2016.

Provincial and territorial government clients rated the Government of Canada’s hydrometric program 8 out of 10 on a performance satisfaction survey of their data dissemination.

Protecting Nature and Canadians

Goal 4
Conserving and Restoring Ecosystems, Wildlife and Habitat, and Protecting Canadians—Resilient ecosystems with healthy wildlife populations so Canadians can enjoy benefits from natural spaces, resources and ecological services for generations to come.

In 2010, 77% of Canadian wild species assessed in the General Status of Wildlife Species in Canada report were ranked "secure." The number of protected areas and the total area protected in Canada continued to grow.

Target 4.1
Species at Risk—By 2020, populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans.

Of the 307 species at risk that had final recovery strategies or management plans as of May 2015, 112 had population-oriented goals reassessed. Of these 112 species, 43 (38%) showed population trends consistent with the goals of the recovery strategies.

Target 4.2
Migratory Birds—Improve the proportion of migratory bird species that meet their population goals.

Baseline information indicates that more than half of managed migratory bird species regularly found in Canada have population sizes within an acceptable range.

Target 4.3
Terrestrial Ecosystems and Habitat Stewardship—Contribute to the proposed national target so that by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial areas and inland water are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

10.3% of Canada’s terrestrial area (land and freshwater) is protected as of the end of 2014, and this percentage is expected to continue to increase.

As of 2015, 80 700 square kilometres (km2) of habitat for waterfowl had been secured since 1990 and as of 2014, 1836 km2 habitat for species at risk has been secured since 2000.

Target 4.4
Improving the Health of National Parks—Improve the condition of at least one Ecological Integrity Indicator in 20 national parks by 2015.

As of March 2015, management actions have resulted in improvements to at least one indicator of ecological integrity in 20 national parks.

Target 4.5
Marine Ecosystems—By 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

From 1990 to 2014, protected coastal and marine areas increased from 0.32% of Canada’s marine territory to 0.9%.

Target 4.6
Invasive Alien Species—By 2020, pathways of invasive alien species introductions are identified, and risk-based intervention or management plans are in place for priority pathways and species.

No new invasive species were found to have become established in Canada in 2012 and 2013.

The federal government is conducting pathway and species risk assessments, including assessments of weeds for potential quarantine and assessments of aquatic species for potential regulations.

The government has developed risk-impact matrices for five groups of high-priority pathogens and completed an assessment of the risk posed by the invasive Phytophthora ramorum (commonly known as sudden oak death disease) to various Canadian tree species such as oak and larch.

Target 4.7
Environmental Disasters, Incidents and Emergencies—Environmental disasters, incidents and emergencies are prevented or their impacts mitigated.

As of March 2015, 86% of federal institutions have assessed their strategic emergency plan and taken actions to address risks related to their area of responsibility.

Of the 2449 facilities that implemented environmental emergency plans in 2014–2015, 21 had environmental emergencies (0.9%).

Target 4.8
Chemicals Management—Reduce risks to Canadians and impacts on the environment and human health posed by releases of harmful substances.

The government is making progress in reducing environmental and health risks posed by releases of harmful substances:

  • As of 2013, mercury, lead and cadmium emissions to air have been reduced to about 10% of 1990 levels (emission reductions of 88%, 90% and 90% respectively).
  • Monitoring and surveillance of harmful substances in the environment shows that concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in fish and sediment are decreasing, and that perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) levels in water and in fish tissue are within guidelines for water quality and fish health, though in some areas they exceed safe levels for wildlife eating those fish.
  • As of March 31, 2014, 100% of new substances notifications received have been assessed under the Chemicals Management Plan.

Goal 5
Biological Resources—Efficient economic and ecological use of resources—Production and consumption of biological resources are sustainable.

From 1990 to 2013, annual timber harvest has been in the range of 47% to 85% of Canada’s wood supply, and 48% of major fish stocks were considered healthy in 2014, an increase from 46% in 2011.

Target 5.1
Sustainable Fisheries—Improve the management and conservation of major stocks.

In 2014, 99% of 155 major fish stocks were harvested at sustainable levels, an increase from 90% in 2011.

Target 5.2
Sustainable Aquaculture—By 2020, all aquaculture in Canada is managed under a science-based regime that promotes the sustainable use of aquatic resources (including marine, freshwater and land-based) in ways that conserve biodiversity.

Integrated Management of Aquaculture Plans have been completed for British Columbia finfish and shellfish. The Plan for freshwater species is currently in development. National aquaculture science programs are in place to inform other regulatory processes under the Fisheries Act (for example, the Aquaculture Activities Regulations).

Target 5.3
Sustainable Forest Management—Contribute to the proposed national target so that by 2020, continued progress is made on the sustainable management of Canada’s forests.

Through its participation on advisory boards and committees, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) provides scientific expertise to stakeholders on how to address challenges related to maintaining the sustainability of forest ecosystems. In 2013–2014, 77 NRCan representatives sat on disturbances advisory boards and committees, up from 73 in the previous reporting period.

Target 5.4
Sustainable Agriculture—By 2020, agricultural working landscapes provide a stable or improved level of biodiversity and habitat capacity.

As of 2013–2014, more than 85% of ranges in the Community Pastures Program were rated good or excellent in terms of their capacity to support biodiversity and provide habitat for wildlife.

Ninety-five percent of farms have taken action on their Environmental Farm Plan to improve agri-environmental risk assessment and risk mitigation.

Shrinking the environmental footprint – beginning with Government

Goal 6
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Energy—Reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of federal operations.

Overall GHG emissions from federal operations have been reduced since 2005.

Responsible departments and agencies continue to work toward achieving their own GHG emissions reduction targets in support of the overall federal target of 17% by 2020–2021.

Target 6.1
GHG Emissions Reduction—The Government of Canada will reduce GHG emissions from its buildings and fleet by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

In fiscal year 2013–2014, responsible departments and agencies have reduced GHG emissions from their buildings and fleets by 2.5%, relative to fiscal year 2005–2006.

Goal 7
Waste and Asset Management—Reduce waste generated and minimize the environmental impacts of assets throughout their life cycle.

The government has made progress on waste and asset management: 37 of 54 real property projects and existing Crown-owned buildings have achieved a high level of environmental performance, 85% of SMART green procurement targets have been achieved (or are on track to be achieved), and 100% of FSDS departments have developed an approach to maintain and improve the sustainability of workplace policies and practices.

Target 7.1
Real Property Environmental Performance—As of April 1, 2014, and pursuant to departmental Real Property Sustainability Frameworks, an industry-recognized level of high environmental performance will be achieved in Government of Canada real property projects and operations.

Federal real property custodians continue to integrate environmental performance considerations into real property decision-making, supporting the government’s pursuit of its GHG emissions reduction, waste and asset management, and water management targets, as well as utility cost savings.

To date, 37 of 54 real property projects and existing Crown-owned buildings and 26 of 36 new construction and major renovation projects have achieved an industry-recognized level of high environmental performance since 2012–2013.

Target 7.2
Green Procurement—As of April 1, 2014, the Government of Canada will continue to take action to embed environmental considerations into public procurement, in accordance with the federal Policy on Green Procurement.

The federal government continues to make progress on implementing the Policy on Green Procurement; for example, more than 14 600 specialists in procurement and/or materiel management have completed training over the last three years.

In addition, in 2013–2014, 96% of the 26 FSDS departments included support or contribution towards green procurement as an element in the performance evaluations of those managing procurement and materiel management.

Target 7.3
Sustainable Workplace Operations—As of April 1, 2015, the Government of Canada will update and adopt policies and practices to improve the sustainability of its workplace operations.

The government has reduced the environmental impact of the federal workplace in a number of key areas. From 2011–2014, the federal government donated 369 000 computers, laptops, monitors and printers to Computers for Schools (CFS) and increased the average ratio of employees to printing units from 4:1 to 8.5:1 (shedding over 27 500 units).

In addition, over 2 years, annual paper consumption dropped by about 540 million sheets, and the use of 20 000 toner cartridges was eliminated, saving the government approximately $4.5 million.

Target 7.4
Greening Services to Clients—By March 31, 2015, departments will establish SMART targets to reduce the environmental impact of their services to clients.

As this is a new and optional target, data are not yet available to provide a measure of progress.

Goal 8
Water Management—Improve water management in federal operations.

The government has added a new commitment to improve the management of water in its real property operations.

Target 8.1
Water Management—As of April 1, 2014, the Government of Canada will take further action to improve water management within its real property portfolio.

All 15 custodial FSDS departments and agencies are making strides to improve water management in their real property operations and to identify priority areas for action.

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