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SDG 13: Climate action

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The environmental perspective

Taking action on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework targets 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning; and 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

In Canada, the effects of human-caused climate change are being felt across the country. Canadians are seeing more extreme temperatures and precipitation as well as more frequent and severe wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and flooding. Meanwhile, rising sea levels, along with less-visible effects such as increased acidity and reduced levels of oxygen in the oceans, are damaging ecosystems and the vitality of traditional industries, such as fisheries.

Climate change is one of the top drivers of global biodiversity loss, which further threatens ecosystems and the beneficial services they provide to society. It affects the health of Canadians, especially the most at-risk populations such as youth, seniors, and marginalized communities. It also puts increased strain on the country's health systems during extreme weather events. Climate change has also been linked to the increased spread of invasive species and intensity of zoonotic (animal-borne) diseases.

While greenhouse gas emissions originating from Indigenous communities are low in absolute terms, estimated at less than 1 million tonnes per year across the country, or less than 1% of Canada's total per year, the impacts of climate change on Indigenous peoples are disproportionately greater than on other Canadians due to cultural, socioeconomic, historic and geographical factors. Impacts, such as wildfires, permafrost thaw, changing wildlife patterns, diminishing access to traditional food sources, and flooding, can exacerbate existing socioeconomic challenges and systemic barriers created by the legacy of colonization, core infrastructure deficits, lack of adequate housing, and other challenges and health stressors facing Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Effective and urgent action on climate change requires transitioning to a net-zero economy by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to grow prosperity, and by realizing opportunities in emerging markets such as renewable energy and clean technology. At the same time, Canada needs to adapt to the changing climate by building resilience and reducing vulnerability to foreseeable impacts in communities, regions, ecosystems, and economic sectors. Adaptation actions taken today can reduce costs and overall impacts on health and well-being. Nature-based climate solutions can also help to mitigate and adapt to climate change while providing benefits for biodiversity, nature conservation and human health.

Increasing efforts to mitigate further emissions of greenhouse gases, and adapting to changes in the climate, contributes to sustainable development and helps to ensure that future generations will be able to provide for their needs.

Where the Government of Canada is going

Mandate letters released in December 2021 outline the Government of Canada's direction and policy priorities. Selected commitments related to Sustainable Development Goal 13 are listed below.

  • Deliver all policy and fiscal measures outlined in the Strengthened Climate Plan, implement the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, and, by the end of March 2022, bring forward an updated Emissions Reduction Plan to achieve a 40 to 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels (Minister of Environment and Climate Change). 
  • Cap oil and gas sector emissions at current levels and ensure that the sector makes an ambitious and achievable contribution to meeting 2030 climate goals, and require the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions at a pace and on a scale needed to align with the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050, with 5-year targets to stay on track (Minister of Environment and Climate Change; supported by the Minister of Natural Resources).
  • Accelerate Canada's G20 commitment to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023, and develop a plan to phase out public financing of the fossil fuel sector, including by federal Crown corporations (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; Minister of Environment and Climate Change; supported by the Minister of Natural Resources).
  • Champion the adoption of a global minimum standard on carbon pricing while continuing to consult with Canadians and actively engage with provinces, territories and key trading partners to inform the development of an approach to applying Border Carbon Adjustments to imports (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance).
  • Make progress on methane emission reductions by developing a plan to reduce emissions across the broader Canadian economy consistent with the Global Methane Pledge and require through regulations the reduction of oil and gas methane emissions in Canada by at least 75% below 2012 levels by 2030 (Minister of Environment and Climate Change).
  • Accelerate federal Greening Government commitments to electrify the entire federal fleet of light duty vehicles by 2030 (President of the Treasury Board).
  • Work with the sports sector to find solutions to reduce its environmental footprint as well as better involve our athletes in the conversation on the fight against climate change (Minister of Sport and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec).

How the Government of Canada contributes

Canada is taking action on climate change through mitigation and adaptation initiatives that support the health and sustainability of its environment, its economy, and people.

The Government of Canada uses its federal authority to develop, implement and enforce laws, regulations, and policies relating to climate change with direct consequences for the safety and security of Canada's people, lands, and climate. For example, the Department of the Environment Act, enacted in 1971, established the department responsible for preserving and enhancing the quality of the natural environment, providing meteorological services, and coordinating policies and programs to achieve environmental objectives, while the Department of Natural Resources Act assigns duties and functions for the integrated management of Canada's natural resources. The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Actis an important addition to Canada's legislative framework.

Effectively addressing climate change requires efforts by the entire international community. Canada plays an active and constructive role in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and was a strong voice in the negotiations towards the establishment of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Canada's actions to address climate change at home and abroad are guided by the Paris Agreement goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this long-term goal, the Paris Agreement requires countries to increase their ambition every 5 years. This is why, in July 2021, Canada announced an enhanced target committing Canada to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This emissions reduction target is enshrined in Canadian law under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2021.

Canada's Emissions Reduction Plan

The Government of Canada demonstrated its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions no later than 2050 when it passed the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act in 2021. This Act enshrines Canada's climate goals for 2030 and 2050 into law and requires the government to establish an emissions reduction plan to achieve Canada's 2030 target. Canada's 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan is the first of many requirements under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. The Act establishes a process for target setting, planning and reporting to ensure transparency and accountability. The Act also ensures that the public will have opportunities to participate in target setting and planning. The 2030 plan will be the first emissions reduction plan established under the Act and is a key milestone on the pathway to net zero by 2050. The plan must be established by the end of March 2022, after which it will be tabled in Parliament and publicly released. Details of the plan will be incorporated into the final 2022 to 2026 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

While the federal government plays a leading role, work toward climate action requires close collaboration with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners, as well as collaborative action from all sectors of society. The foundational Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change expanded federal action on climate change. It continues to support working with provinces, territories and municipalities to implement mitigation measures to reduce carbon emissions. Many provinces and territories have committed to significant greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for both 2030 and 2050, but not all have announced a complete set of measures to reach these targets. Additional provincial and territorial measures will build on the effects of federal measures and lead to further emission reductions. The Government of Canada continues to work with provinces and territories to advance shared priorities that will further lower emissions, including on a regional and bilateral basis.

The Government of Canada has also committed to developing a National Adaptation Strategy, working with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, Indigenous peoples, and other partners, including youth. The strategy will establish a shared vision for climate resilience in Canada, identify key priorities for increased collaboration, and establish a framework for measuring progress at the national level. It is intended to complement the adaptation plans of other orders of government.

During the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), Parks Canada, along with other protected areas agencies, signed a joint statement, led by the National Parks England, regarding the contributions of protected areas to the climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges. The Joint Statement highlights the work of national parks and other protected and conserved areas around the world in addressing the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss while highlighting how we can work together as a global family to increase green investment in protected and conserved areas and ultimately make a significant contribution to reaching net zero.

Canada is also a strong supporter of the Montreal Protocol, which is the Multilateral Environmental Agreement that has achieved the highest greenhouse gas emissions reductions to date, and stands to avoid up to 0.4 degrees Celsius in warming by 2100 through the implementation of its Kigali Amendment on the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons.

Finally, the Government of Canada owns 32,000 buildings across the country and, through its operations, consumes a significant amount of energy from greenhouse-gas-emitting sources. It also manages a large fleet of more than 40,000 on-road vehicles and spends billions of dollars each year on goods and services. This large environmental footprint represents an opportunity to lead the transition to a net-zero economy.

Climate change adaptation

Along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation is an essential part of the Government of Canada's response to climate change. Canadians, especially Indigenous peoples and those living in northern, coastal and remote communities, are experiencing climate impacts such as sea level rise, more frequent and severe weather events, and loss of access to traditional foods. The Government of Canada has committed to taking action to adapt to current and future climate impacts to help build resilience, reduce costs, and enhance the health, well-being, and safety of Canadians and their communities.

The Government of Canada supports Canadians in making informed, forward-looking decisions that take climate change into account. For example, the Canadian Centre for Climate Services' climate data portals provide engineers, public health professionals, urban planners and other users with access to the right data to plan and adapt to climate change. In addition, through programs such as the $2 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, the government is helping communities to build on-the-ground solutions to mitigate climate impacts such as flooding, wildfires and drought.

The government works with partners across the country to address climate-related health impacts, including extreme heat. Efforts focus on increasing adaptive capacity to reduce health risks by supporting the expansion of heat alert and response systems across Canada, and raising the awareness of heat-health risks to Canadians and health professionals through targeted promotional materials, guidance and publications.

Canada's strengthened climate plan, A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, builds on past progress, proposing further measures to help Canadians adapt to climate impacts and build resilient communities. In particular, the government proposes to:

  • develop Canada's first National Adaptation Strategy, working with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, Indigenous peoples, and other key partners
  • co-develop, on a distinction basis, an Indigenous Climate Leadership agenda which builds regional and national capacity and progressively vests authorities and resources for climate action in the hands of First Nations, Inuit, the Métis Nation, and representative organizations
  • continue to provide support to Canadians and communities to respond to accelerating climate change impacts, taking into account the major areas of risk identified by the expert panel convened by the Canadian Council of Academies
Indigenous peoples in Canada and climate action

Many Indigenous leaders have reinforced the need to take action to reduce pollution, to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and to improve the ways in which the natural environment is respected and protected. In doing so, they reinforce that leadership by Indigenous peoples is critical to achieving the foundational changes required to address climate change. The Government of Canada has committed to supporting Indigenous climate leadership and self-determined climate action, both of which are essential to advancing Canada's reconciliation with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Indigenous partnerships are also an important component of activities under the Natural Climate Solutions Fund initiative and other programs.

To support Indigenous climate leadership, the Government of Canada is partnering with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to set an agenda for climate action and a framework for collaboration. Recognizing Indigenous climate leadership means investing in the agency of Indigenous peoples and communities, supporting Indigenous-led and delivered solutions, equipping Indigenous peoples with equitable resources, and ensuring appropriate access to funding to implement self-determined climate action. Indigenous climate leadership includes a rich history of Traditional Knowledge systems, building up community resilience and the capability to adapt, particularly in remote, northern and coastal communities.

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2022-2026 FSDS

Draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022-2026