Greening Government Strategy: A Government of Canada Directive

From: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

In Canada and abroad, the effects of climate change are evident. Warming in Canada is, on average, about double that of the global average, and is even more in northern parts of the country.Footnote 1 Impacts such as coastal erosion; thawing permafrost; increases in heat waves, droughts, wildfires and flooding; ecosystem changes; risks to critical infrastructure and impacts to food and water are already being felt in some regions of Canada and globally. The science is clear that human activities are driving unprecedented changes in the Earth’s climate, which pose significant risks to human health, security, biodiversity and economic growth.

Response to climate change requires action to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere
  • increase the resilience of assets, services and operations by adapting to the changing climate

Greening government operations will support Canada’s sustainability goals already established under the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This Greening Government Strategy is consistent with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

Objective

The Government of Canada will transition to net-zero carbon and climate-resilient operations, while also reducing environmental impacts beyond carbon, including on waste, water and biodiversity. Led by the Centre for Greening Government of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Government of Canada will ensure that Canada is a global leader in government operations that are net-zero, resilient and green.

The Centre for Greening Government

Supporting climate action and sustainability in government operations

The mandate of the Centre for Greening Government is to provide leadership toward net-zero, climate-resilient and green Government of Canada operations. The Centre will:

  • lead and coordinate the federal emissions reduction, climate-resilience and greening government initiatives
  • integrate knowledge from other leading organizations and share best practices broadly
  • track and disclose government environmental performance information centrally
  • drive results to meet greening government environmental objectives

Scope of application

  • The Greening Government Strategy is a set of government-approved commitments that apply to all core government departments and agenciesFootnote 2
  • Crown corporations with significant real property, fleet and procurement are encouraged to adopt the Greening Government Strategy or an equivalent set of commitments, including the commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050

Commitments

Net-zero emissions by 2050

The Government of Canada’s operations will be net-zero emissions by 2050 including:  

  • government-owned and leased real property
  • mobility: fleets, business travel and commuting
  • procurement of goods and services
  • national safety and security operationsFootnote 3

To implement net-zero in real property and fleet operations,Footnote 4 the Government of Canada will reduce absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2Footnote 5 GHG emissions by 40% by 2025 and by at least 90% below 2005 levels by 2050. On this emissions reduction pathway, the government will aspire to reduce emissions by an additional 10% each 5 years starting in 2025.

Net-zero means reducing GHG emissions from operations to as close to zero as possible and then balancing out any remaining emissions with an equivalent amount of carbon removal.

Real property

Departments will maintain a current, net-zero climate-resilient real property portfolio plan to determine the most cost-effective pathway to achieve net-zero, climate-resilient real property operations by 2050. This includes leveraging opportunities for portfolio rationalization; sharing facilities; maximizing energy efficiency, and switching to lower carbon fuels.

New construction and major retrofits

Departments will ensure that all new buildings and major building retrofits prioritize low-carbon and climate resilience. Investment decisions will be based on total cost of ownership:

  • all new federal buildings (including build-to-lease and public-private partnerships) will be net-zero carbonFootnote 6 unless a life-cycle cost-benefit analysis indicates net-zero-carbon-ready constructionFootnote 7
  • all major building retrofits, including significant energy performance contracts, require a GHG reduction life-cycle cost analysis to determine the optimal GHG savings (the life-cycle cost approach will use a period of 40 years and a carbon shadow priceFootnote 8 of $300 per tonne and be maintained at all project stages)
  • all new federal buildings, infrastructure and major building retrofits, including significant energy performance contracts, require a climate change risk assessment that incorporates both current and future climate conditions in the analysis

Leased facilities

The government will reduce the carbon footprint of its leased office space and assess assets for climate change risk to achieve net-zero, climate-resilient leasing operations:

  • Starting in 2030, 75% of domestic office new lease and lease renewal floor space must be in net-zero, carbon climate-resilient buildings. By 2023, PSPC will develop a zero-carbon, climate-resilient leasing portfolio plan to achieve this objective, including a program to work with landlords.
  • In all new domestic office leases and lease renewals for space over 500 m2, landlords must report building energy and water usage, GHG emissions and waste generated using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Starting in 2023, this information will be publicly disclosed at the building level for new leases in major urban centres.
  • GHG emissions from the majority of office floor space leased will be reported by 2025.

Low-carbon operations

The government will manage its real property portfolios to minimize their GHG emissions. Departments will implement low-carbon real property operations, which include:

  • using 100% clean electricity by 2022, where available, and by 2025, at the latest, by producing or purchasing renewable electricityFootnote 9
  • recommissioning large energy-intensive buildings on a regular cycle and/or implementing smart building technology
  • incorporating all facilities in the RETScreen Clean Energy Management Software by 2025
  • metering energy use by 2022 for government-owned buildings of no less than 1,000 square metres with significant energy consumptionFootnote 10
  • Existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) systems using high global warming potential refrigerants, ozone depleting refrigerants and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will be converted or replaced by 2030

Water

The government will reduce its water consumption and its load on municipal systems by:

  • tracking and disclosing its potable water consumption from major facilities by 2022
  • using best-in-class water-use practices in new construction and major renovationsFootnote 11
  • designing all new Crown-owned buildings to effectively manage storm water

Materiel

The government will reduce the environmental impact of structural construction materials by:

  • disclosing the amount of embodied carbonFootnote 12 in the structural materials of major construction projects by 2022, based on material carbon intensity or a life-cycle analysis
  • reducing the embodied carbon of the structural materials of major construction projects by 30%, starting in 2025, using recycled and lower-carbon materials, material efficiency and performance-based design standards
  • conducting whole building (or asset) life-cycle assessments by 2025 at the latest for major buildings and infrastructure projects

Projects will also minimize the use of harmful materials in construction and renovation, including using low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials in building interiors.

Waste

The government will take steps to reduce the environmental impact of waste by:

  • diverting at least 75% by weight of non-hazardous operational waste from landfills by 2030Footnote 13
  • diverting at least 75% by weight of plastic waste from landfills by 2030
  • diverting at least 90% by weight of all construction and demolition waste from landfills and striving to achieve 100% by 2030
  • tracking and disclosing its waste diversion by 2022
  • minimizing environmentally harmful and hazardous chemicals and materials used and disposed of in real property operations

Biodiversity and nature-based climate solutions

The government will manage its significant property holdings, where operational requirements permit, to retain and restore biodiversity, mitigate and adapt to climate change by:

  • sequestering carbon through ecosystem restoration and improved management practices that increase carbon stored in forests, grasslands, soils, inland and coastal wetlands, and marine environments while maintaining ecological values
  • maintaining and restoring wild or near-wild areas that conserve healthy populations of native species, including:
    • identifying any potential federal Crown lands or waters that could contribute to the commitment to conserve and protect 25% of Canada’s land and oceans (working toward 30% by 2030) through low to no-cost designation or other effective conservation measures (OECMs)
    • developing management approaches as required for federal sites to protect biodiversity and enable sites to be recognized as protected areas or OECMs

The government will also manage its operating practices where operational requirements permit to:

  • minimize the ecosystem impacts of marine activities, such as reducing impacts from noise due to vessel operations
  • maximize the use of natural infrastructure and other nature-based solutions to protect physical assets
  • adopt low GHG-emitting ecosystem sensitive land use practices on areas of properties actively managed for operations
  • implement climate-resilient groundskeeping using native species where possible and practices such as xeriscaping and porous landscapes

Mobility and fleets

The government will adopt low-carbon mobility solutions, deploy supporting infrastructure in its facilities and modernize its fleets as follows.

Mobility

  • The Centre will encourage employees to use low-carbon forms of transportation to reduce emissions from employee commuting and will track these emissions by the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year.
  • The government will facilitate opportunities for flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, by enabling remote computing telecommunications and by supporting information technology (IT) solutions.
  • The government will promote and incentivize lower-carbon alternatives to work-related air travel. Departments will contribute to the Greening Government Fund (GGF) based on their air travel emissions.Footnote 14 The GGF aims to incentivize lower-carbon alternatives to government operations by providing project funding to federal government departments and agencies to reduce GHG emissions in their operations. 
  • Emissions from other travel related to operations, such as major events hosted and ministerial travel, may be offset by departments.Footnote 15
  • Purchase of carbon offsets for events, conferences and travel may also be used as an eligible expense for grants and contribution program recipients.Footnote 16

On-road fleet

  • Seventy-five per cent of new light-duty unmodified fleetFootnote 17 vehicle purchases will be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs)Footnote 18 or hybrids, with the objective that the government’s light-duty fleet comprises at least 80% ZEVs by 2030. Priority is to be given to purchasing ZEVs.
  • All new executive vehicle purchases will be ZEVs or hybrids.
  • Fleet management will be optimized to achieve the targets, including by exploring options for commercial vehicles, assessing ZEV charging infrastructure needs and applying telematics to analyze vehicle usage data on vehicles scheduled to be replaced.

National safety and security fleet

On the pathway to net-zero, the Government of Canada is committed to reducing emissions from its national safety and security (NSS) fleetFootnote 19 while providing Canada with effective operational capability. The government’s NSS fleet will use more environmentally friendly technologies and low-carbon fuels when available, affordable and operationally feasible.

By 2023, NSS fleet departments will develop and regularly update Operational Fleet Decarbonization Plans that outline how they will reduce their emissions from operations in line with the overall 2050 target.

In addition, NSS departments will adopt best practices to improve efficiency and reduce emissions and environmental impacts in the areas of:

  • fuel procurement, including low-carbon fuelsFootnote 20
  • fleet procurement, including purchasing energy-efficient platformsFootnote 20
  • operational efficiency and net-zero research and innovation

Climate-resilient services and operations

The Government of Canada is committed to minimizing disruptions and damage to its assets, services and operations related to the impacts of climate change. Consistent with the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework, departments will:

  • by 2021, and at regular intervals thereafter,Footnote 21 take action to improve understanding of the risks posed by the impacts of climate change to federal assets, services and operations across the country
  • by 2022, and following each subsequent climate risk assessment process, take action to reduce climate change risks to assets, services and operations, which could include:
    • incorporating and/or strengthening the consideration of climate change in business continuity planning, departmental risk planning or equivalent processes, and program design and delivery considerations
    • integrating climate change adaptation into the design, construction and operation aspects of all major real property projects
  • apply climate-resilient building guidance being developed by National Research Council Canada
  • increase training and support for public service employees on assessing climate change impacts, undertaking climate change risk assessments, and developing adaptation actions, and facilitating sharing of best practices and lessons learned

Procurement of goods and services

The government will aid the transition to a net-zero, circular economy through green procurement that includes life-cycle assessment principles and the adoption of clean technologies and green products and services by:

  • including criteria that address GHG emissions reduction, sustainable plastics and broader environmental benefits into procurements by departments for goods and services that have a high environmental impact
  • incentivizing major suppliers to adopt a science-based target in line with the Paris Agreement, and to disclose their GHG emissions and environmental performance information
  • supporting departments in adopting clean technology and undertaking clean technology demonstration projects
  • eliminating the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in government operations, events and meetings
  • promoting the procurement of sustainable plastic products and the reduction of associated plastic packaging waste
  • strengthening support for green procurement, including guidance, tools and training for public service employees

Policies

The government will:

  • continue to align relevant government operations policies to further incorporate greening and climate resilience
  • incorporate greening priorities into the responsibilities of senior department officials who would ensure that greening, low-carbon and adaptation are addressed comprehensively in both planning and operations

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will require the submission of a life-cycle cost analysis, including the shadow price of carbon, for all major real property funding proposals.

Engagement

As part of its greening strategy, the government will focus on the well-being of its employees and communities in which it operates by:

  • creating sustainable workplaces, including through employee mobilization and action
  • collaborating and establishing communities of practice with provincial, territorial and municipal governments; Indigenous peoples; industry; academia; and non-profit organizations to achieve common environmental goals
  • integrating sustainability planning with local communities

Oversight and performance measurement

The Government of Canada will ensure accountability for the government’s environmental performance and is committed to the principles of transparency and open data.

In order to ensure oversight, the Centre will publicly disclose detailed environmental performance information on government operations, including a complete inventory of federal GHG emissions.

Crown corporations are encouraged to publicly disclose their GHG emissions annually. The government will encourage adoption of the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) by federal Crown corporations where appropriate and relevant to their business activities.

Benefits

Acting on climate change will reduce risks and create new economic opportunities and good jobs for Canadians. There is already a global market for low-carbon goods and services worth over $5.8 trillion, which is projected to keep growing at a rate of 3% per year. Through the deployment and promotion of innovative technologies that address climate change, the Government of Canada will contribute to the global competitiveness of the Canadian clean technology sector.

The government is one of the largest real property owners in Canada; ongoing greening of federal Crown-owned assets will support the development of the green building industry. Investments in clean electricity will contribute to both reductions in GHG emissions from federal operations and to renewable power development in Canada.

Through increased resource productivity and decoupling GHG emissions from its operations, the government will contribute to low-carbon, environmentally responsible growth and to maintaining our ecosystems.

Increasing our resilience to the impacts of climate change will also increase our resilience to other events that have the potential to disrupt the government’s services and operations.
A climate-resilient workforce, promoted by the Greening Government Strategy, will help government operations maintain business continuity through many types of large-scale disruptions.

A focus on sustainability will help the government become an employer of choice, and contributions to wellness will increase productivity and attract and retain public servants. Broad-based approaches to sustainability integrated into the community will support the effective achievement of common goals.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the President of the Treasury Board, 2020,
ISSN: 978-0-660-24164-7

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