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Section 1: Context

This report

This 2012 Progress Report highlights the progress of 27 federal departments and agencies towards the goals and targets set out in the 2010 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). It provides parliamentarians and Canadians with a whole-of-government picture of the contributions of the federal government to achieve environmental sustainability, with a focus on what has been accomplished thus far. This report is submitted by the Sustainable Development Office of Environment Canada to the Minister of the Environment and tabled in each House of Parliament, as required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. As the first substantive report on the first cycle of the FSDS (2010–2013), it establishes the starting point and a baseline for future cycles of the FSDS and reports on progress.

The federal framework for sustainable development

This report looks at sustainable development through the lens of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which requires that an FSDS be developed and implemented to make environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable to parliament. For the first time, Canadians have, in one place, comprehensive information on activities across the federal government that contribute to environmental sustainability. The FSDS renders environmental decision-making more transparent and accountable using an improved framework for planning and reporting by providing:

  • An integrated, whole-of-government picture of actions and results to achieve environmental sustainability;
  • A link between sustainable development planning and reporting and the government's core expenditure planning and reporting system; and,
  • Effective measurement, monitoring and reporting in order to track and report on progress to Canadians.

Federal commitments toward sustainable development were set out in the 2010 FSDS, organized under four themes that represent key environmental priorities for Canadians. These are:

Federal commitments towards sustainable development were set out in the 2010 FSDS: Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality,  Maintaining Water Quality and Availability, Protecting Nature, Shrinking the Environmental Footprint of Government

Within the themes, there are a series of goals that are aspirational, take a long-term view, address important challenges, and reflect domestic and international priorities and commitments. Each goal has targets that are more specific in nature and strive to meet the SMART criteria (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). These goals and targets are supported by implementation strategies that are specific activities aimed at supporting the targets set out in the FSDS. To achieve these goals and targets, the federal government frequently works in collaboration with various jurisdictions. While activities of other governments, industry and individuals all contribute to results, the 2010 FSDS reflects the federal contributions towards these targets. In some cases, the role is direct (e.g., regulations), while in others, the federal government plays a supporting part (e.g., providing science). As a result, some of the FSDS targets aim to achieve environmental outcomes, while others focus on completing actions in support of an overall objective.

What you will find

A key step in making environmental decision-making more transparent is to report on progress. There are three key vehicles that support this objective.

  1. This 2012 Progress Report;
  2. Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies (DSDSs); and,
  3. Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI).

Each of these plays a key role in providing information on the progress of the 2010 FSDS.

This report presents the progress on the FSDS goals and targets, supported by 34 CESI indicators and highlights of key actions from selected implementation strategies of the FSDS departments and agencies. Links are provided to the CESI website and to detailed information on the departmental websites that house departmental planning and performance reports and the DSDSs,. These links provide the reader with the means to review how the federal government is working towards environmental sustainability.

A chapter on each FSDS theme opens with an "At a glance" view of the progress to date towards each goal, then highlights significant achievements from the FSDS departments and agencies, and, finally, identifies some of the challenges that remain. This opening snapshot is supported by a review of "Why it matters" to Canadians, emphasizing the social and economic significance of environmental sustainability.

The rest of the chapter provides the most up-to-date environmental scientific and performance information that was available in 2012 on the FSDS goals and targets. The chapters provide additional context about some targets, as well as information on key implementation strategies and indicator results.

There are, however, limits on the extent to which this report can link progress on results directly to specific initiatives. The objective, rather, is to identify the contributions of departments and agencies towards the FSDS goals and targets. In some cases, the data in this report establishes a baseline against which future reports can be measured. The linkages between the broad outcomes and federal government actions -- environmental indicators and the performance measures of various implementation strategies -- provide greater transparency about what federal government programs and policies are trying to achieve. Over time, these linkages will evolve and become more direct.

This report is an important step as the Government of Canada develops the second cycle of the FSDS (2013–2016). As such, this report and those that follow, will reflect the changing policy landscape, making adjustments to respond to new evidence, and improvements to better track results of federal government efforts that contribute to achieving sustainable development.

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