Review and Comments on the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Review and Comments on the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is required to prepare within every 3-year period a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy based on the precautionary principle. The Act states that the strategy “shall set out federal sustainable development goals and targets and an implementation strategy for meeting each target and identify the minister responsible for meeting each target.”

A diagram illustrating that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development assesses, monitors, and reports on the goals, targets, and action plans supporting the 2030 Agenda

“We recommend that the sustainable development goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be the foundation for developing the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.”

Julie Gelfand, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

The Government of Canada embraces the universality of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is committed to supporting the implementation of the sustainable development goals in Canada and internationally. The current draft strategy does not address all of the sustainable development goals. Rather, it refers to just 12 of the 17 sustainable development goals.

Icons and logo of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals

Source: Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations

The sustainable development goals and the associated targets should be the overall frame that the Government of Canada uses to draft its federal and departmental sustainable development strategies in order to meet Canada’s international commitments.

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy must integrate economic, environmental, and social objectives in decision making. This integration is clearly enshrined in the new Federal Sustainable Development Act, which received royal assent on 28 February 2019 and will come into force at a date to be fixed by Order in Council.

We recommend that the 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy be in line with the principles of the new Act.

Results of the review

Cover page of the publication “Achieving a Sustainable Future—Draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2019 to 2022”

The 2019–2022 draft strategy is the 4th Federal Sustainable Development Strategy since 2010.

Our review includes 3 key observations, many of which also applied to previous versions of the strategy:

1. Many targets cannot be assessed

2. Many implementation strategies cannot be assessed

3. Many targets are not connected to key priorities or indicators

Many targets cannot be assessed

The draft strategy presents 29 targets to achieve 13 goals. The Federal Sustainable Development Act defines a target as a measurable objective.

Ability to assess target

Overall, we found that more than half (17) of the targets either cannot be assessed or will be difficult to assess.

Pie chart showing the ability to assess the 29 targets presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
Text version

This pie chart shows a breakdown of the 29 targets presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy by the ability to assess the targets. The 3 slices of the pie chart show that 12 targets are easy to assess, 9 are difficult to assess, and 8 cannot be assessed.

Target quality

We also found that about half (14) of the targets do not have the characteristics expected of good-quality targets.

Pie chart showing the quality of the 29 targets presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
Text version

This pie chart shows the breakdown of the 29 targets presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy by target quality. The 3 slices of the pie chart show that 15 targets are of good quality, 10 are of poor quality, and 4 are of fair quality.

We determined that the Sustainable Development Office of Environment and Climate Change Canada had established suitable criteria for developing the draft strategy targets. These criteria are not written clearly or included in full in the draft strategy.

We recommend that the 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy list the criteria used for the targets and include their definitions.

We observed that all targets are related to federal jurisdiction and departmental mandates and are consistent with Government of Canada priorities. We found that over half of the targets are not expressed within a 3 to 5 year time frame, which will make it difficult to assess progress within the three-year period covered by the draft strategy.

We found that many targets do not include a baseline or are not specific or measurable. This will make it difficult to assess these targets in the future.

We also found that many of the targets do not have the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s expected qualities for results-based management. Ensuring that targets are expressed in terms of performance allows achievements to be assessed as contributing toward specific goals in the draft strategy.

We recommend that targets be revised so that they

Many implementation strategies cannot be assessed

Ability to assess key priorities

The draft strategy presents 41 key priorities and over 200 departmental contributing actions, which together form the implementation strategies—or “action plans,” as they are referred to in the draft strategy. We examined whether the key priorities can be assessed. Overall, we found that two thirds (28) of the key priorities either cannot be assessed or will be difficult to assess.

Pie chart showing the ability to assess the 41 key priorities presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
Text version

This pie chart shows the breakdown of the 41 key priorities presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy by the ability to assess the key priorities. The 3 slices of the pie chart show that 13 key priorities are easy to assess, 16 are difficult to assess, and 12 cannot be assessed.

We determined that the Department’s Sustainable Development Office had established suitable criteria for developing the implementation strategies. Similar to the target criteria, these criteria are not written clearly or included in full in the draft strategy.

We recommend that the 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy include the criteria used for the implementation strategies and include definitions for these criteria.

We observed that most of the key priorities are written in plain language and are relevant. We found that many of the key priorities are not clearly related to a specific planned action by the Government of Canada.

We recommend that the key priorities be revised to consistently meet the criteria for the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

We also examined whether all outstanding Government of Canada environment-related priorities included in the mandate letters are included in the draft strategy. We found that 18 of the 30 outstanding Government of Canada environment priorities from the mandate letters are not included as key priorities in the draft strategy. In fact, 10 Government of Canada environment priorities are not mentioned at all.

Key priorities—criteria assessment

Bar chart showing whether the 41 key priorities presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy met established criteria
Text version

This bar chart shows an assessment of whether the 41 key priorities presented in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy met criteria established by the Sustainable Development Office of Environment and Climate Change Canada for implementation strategies in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

Of the 41 key priorities, 20 have a connection to a target in the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, while 21 do not.

Of the 41 key priorities, 25 met the criteria for being relevant, while 16 did not.

Of the 41 key priorities, 22 were clearly related to a specific planned action by the Government of Canada, while 19 were not.

Of the 41 key priorities, 36 met the criteria for plain language, while 5 did not.

Many targets are not connected to key priorities or indicators

Another factor affecting the ability to assess progress on the strategy is the connection between targets, key priorities, and indicators.

Under subsection 9(2) of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the contents of the strategy “shall set out federal sustainable development goals and targets and an implementation strategy for meeting each target.” The draft strategy sets out 41 key priorities (part of implementation strategies), 29 targets, and 13 goals. Progress on strategy goals is intended to be measured through 53 indicators.

We found that 21 key priorities have no connection to a target in the draft strategy. For example, under the “healthy coasts and oceans” goal, we found that four of the five key priorities do not have a clear connection to the targets for marine conservation or sustainable fisheries. Also, there are no key priorities related to sustainable fisheries.

Example of key priorities not connected to targets

Goal in the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Healthy coasts and oceans

Targets Key priorities
Marine conservation: By 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved through networks of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
  • Supporting international biodiversity targets
Sustainable fisheries: By 2020, all major fish and invertebrate stocks are managed and harvested at levels considered to be sustainable, starting at 96% in 2016. No connected key priorities
No connected target
  • Implementing the Oceans Protection Plan
  • Mitigating and preventing oil spills
  • Addressing plastic waste in the oceans
  • Developing an ocean noise strategy

Similarly, we found that 14 targets do not have a connection with any of the indicators, which can affect whether a target can be assessed in the future. This failure to connect key priorities to planned actions and targets limits the ability to assess and understand the contribution these activities make to the success of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. We recommend that the targets, key priorities, and indicators be revised to enable a connection and to improve the ability to assess progress on the strategy. The extent of the disconnection between key priorities and targets, and targets and indicators, makes it difficult for Canadians and parliamentarians to understand what the government is planning to do. We recommend that the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy be revised to remove any key priorities that are not connected to a target.

Conclusion

We found that many targets and implementation strategies cannot be assessed and are not clearly connected. These issues increase the risk that decision making related to sustainable development will not be transparent and subject to accountability to Parliament.

More broadly, the failure to integrate the sustainable development goals creates a greater risk that incomplete and poorly conceived sustainable development actions within the Government of Canada will not contribute to improvements in the quality of life of Canadians.

There is still time to address the findings presented in this letter before the 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy is finalized. We would be happy to continue discussions with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Evaluation of targets—ability to assess criteria

Evaluation of targets—ability to assess criteria
numberNo. Target in the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for 2019–2022 Ability to assess criteria Target stated as:
Specific Measurable Baseline Overall Performance Output Outcome Input Activity Indicator Overall
1 By 2030, reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, relative to 2005 emission levels. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
2 Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal government facilities and fleets by 40% by 2030 (with an aspiration to achieve this target by 2025) and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
3 Divert at least 75% (by weight) of all non-hazardous operational waste (including plastic waste) by 2030, and divert at least 90% (by weight) of all construction and demolition waste (striving to achieve 100% by 2030), where supported by local infrastructure. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
4 Our administrative fleet will be comprised of at least 80% zero-emission vehicles by 2030. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
5 Departments will incorporate adaptation in departmental risk planning or equivalent processes. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess red Xred X poor
6 Use 100% clean electricity by 2025. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
7 Departments with the largest annual procurement will disclose and take steps to reduce the most significant carbon and broader environmental footprints of their purchasing. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess red Xred X poor
8 Implement our Mission Innovation pledge to double federal government investments in clean energy research, development and demonstration from 2015 levels of $387 million to $775 million by 2020. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess red Xred X red Xred X poor
9 By the end of the 2027–28 fiscal year, invest $26.9 billion in funding for green infrastructure initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience and environment quality. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess red Xred X red Xred X poor
10 By 2030, 90% and in the long term, 100% of Canada’s electricity is generated from renewable and non-emitting sources. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
11 By 2021, there is a favourable 5-year trend in renewable electricity capacity compared to overall electricity sources, from a 2016 level of 66%. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X fair
12 By 2030, 600 petajoules of total annual energy savings will be achieved as a result of adoption of energy efficiency codes, standards and practices from a baseline savings of 27.4 petajoules in 2017 to 2018. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
13 By 2020, 10% of coastal and marine areas are conserved through networks of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
14 By 2020, all major fish and invertebrate stocks are managed and harvested at levels considered to be sustainable, starting at 96% in 2016. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X fair
15 Reduce annual phosphorus loading into Lake Erie by 40% to achieve the binational (Canada-United StatesUS) phosphorus targets from a 2008 baseline. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
16 By 2022, reduce nutrient loadings in the Lake Winnipeg Basin by an estimated 44,700 kilograms per year in support of Manitoba’s plan to reduce phosphorus in Lake Winnipeg by 50% to pre-1990 levels. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
17 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. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
18 By 2022, the condition of 90% of ecological integrity indicators in national parks is maintained or improved. red Xred X green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark difficult to assess red Xred X poor
19 Between now and 2022, maintain Canada’s annual timber harvest at or below sustainable wood supply levels. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
20 By 2023, protection and recovery actions are being implemented by partner organizations for a high percentage of the 200 terrestrial species at risk through collaborative investment and action for shared priority places, species and threats. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess red Xred X poor
21 By 2020, species that are secure remain secure and populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X fair
22 By 2025, migratory bird species with population sizes not within an acceptable range exhibit positive trends toward acceptable limits. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X fair
23 By March 31, 2021, all of the long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve are to be resolved. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
24 Achieve a score of 71 or higher for the Index of Agri-Environmental Sustainability by 2030, demonstrating improvement in on-farm management practices and corresponding improvement in the environmental performance of the agriculture sector. red Xred X green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark difficult to assess red Xred X poor
25 By 2020, all aquaculture in Canada is managed under a science-based regime that promotes the sustainable use of aquatic resources (marine and freshwater) in ways that conserve biodiversity. red Xred X green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark difficult to assess red Xred X poor
26 By 2020, maintain or increase the number of Canadians that get out into nature—for example, by visiting parks and green spaces—and increase participation in biodiversity conservation activities relative to a 2010 baseline. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
27 By 2030, 85% of Canadians live in areas where the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards are met. green checkmarkgreen checkmark red Xred X red Xred X difficult to assess red Xred X poor
28 Continued decrease in emissions from 1990 of fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and volatile organic compounds from all sources. green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark easy to assess green checkmarkgreen checkmark green checkmarkgreen checkmark good
29 By 2020, address the approximately 4,300 substances identified as priorities for action under the Chemicals Management Plan. red Xred X red Xred X red Xred X unable to assess red Xred X poor

Legend

Overall easy to assess

Easy to assess = 12 Targets

Overall difficult to assess

Difficult to assess = 9 Targets

Overall unable to assess

Unable to assess = 8 Targets

Overall good

Good = 15 Targets

Overall fair

Fair = 4 Targets

Overall poor

Poor = 10 Targets

Criteria for targets and implementation strategies

Criteria for targets and implementation strategies
Target criteria Definition
Specific Using plain language to ensure the target is clear, well-defined and understandable to the public.
Measurable Being clear how progress will be measured and including indicators that accurately represent what is being measured and that allow for comparison over time.
Takes a medium-term view 3-5 years
Fall within federal jurisdiction Mandate letters, speeches from the throne, budgets, alignment with departmental plans.
Fall within departmental mandates Mandate letters, speeches from the throne, budgets, alignment with departmental plans.
Remain informed by environmental baseline data and indicators Each target should be measured using one or more indicators (most commonly those drawn from the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program).
Consistent with Government of Canada priorities

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change;
  • the 2030 Agenda’s sustainable development goals; Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals reflect the environmentally focused sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda;
  • Ministerial mandate letters and Budget 2016; and budgets after 2016; and
  • 2020 biodiversity goals and targets for Canada.
Criteria for targets and implementation strategies
Implementation strategy criteria Definition
Government of Canada’s planned actions Implementation strategies reflect actions that the Government of Canada is taking or plans to take during the three-year Federal Sustainable Development Strategy cycle (recognizing that actions may cover part of the three-year cycle or may go beyond it).
Connection to Federal Sustainable Development Strategy targets Actions reflected in implementation strategies have a clear connection to one or more Federal Sustainable Development Strategy targets and could be expected to have a positive effect on progress toward the target(s).
Plain language Written in plain language, well defined and understandable.
Relevant Relevant within the context of sustainable development and government priorities for part of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy reporting period, for the entire reporting period, or can span beyond the reporting period.

Source: Sustainable Development Office of Environment and Climate Change Canada

Previous Reviews

2016-2019

Review and Comments on the Draft 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Response to the Review of the Draft 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

2013-2016

Review of the Draft 2013–2016 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Response from Environment Canada to the Review of the Draft 2013–2016 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy