Canada

   

Environmental Policies

#24
Key Findings
With a mixed environmental record, the country falls into the lower-middle ranks worldwide (rank 24) on this issue. Its score in this area has improved by 1.5 points relative to 2014.

The country ratified the Paris climate agreement in 2016, and has created a legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050. While renewable-energy policy is largely a provincial policy area, a national framework seeks to meet targets through carbon pricing, energy-efficiency investments and renewable-energy strategies.

Several bills seeking to preserve marine resources have been passed. However, the government has also worked to approve and even nationalize highly controversial pipeline projects. and biodiversity in forests and waterways has declined over the past several years.

A new policy imposing carbon taxes in provinces lacking such a mechanism has been criticized for setting the tax level too low to achieve the country’s commitments. The new Canada-United States-Mexico trade agreement, while generally weak in the area of environmental protection, removes NAFTA dispute-settlement provisions that had been used to challenge Canadian environmental laws.

Environment

#18

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
7
Environmental policy, across the board, is more-or-less balanced in Canada, with some areas preforming better than others. Biodiversity in Canada’s forests and waterways has declined over the past decade, and climate change and renewable-energy policies have featured prominently in public policymaking in the last several years.

Since taking office in 2015, the Liberal government’s environmental record has been mixed. On the one hand, the decision to approve and then – in an attempt to rescue the project following investor uncertainty – nationalize the highly controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion at a cost of CAD 4.5 billion raised serious questions about Trudeau’s commitment to fighting climate change and protecting Indigenous rights. The government has finished a second round of consultations and reapproved the project (following a court decision to allow for further consultation), with construction expected to begin in 2020. The pipeline still faces challenges from British Columbia, whose premier has said he will do everything in his power to prevent the expansion.

On the other hand, 2019 saw the passage of bills C-48, a moratorium on large oil tankers accessing ports on British Columbia’s north coast, and C-55, which establishes a network of protected marine areas and prohibits certain activities in these areas. These actions are signs of an effort to improve the country’s marine-resources conservation. In 2016, Canada ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, committing to a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% compared to 2005 levels by 2030. This commitment has been adopted as a national target. Canada has also set a legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change represents a collaborative effort to ensure that the target is met through carbon pricing, investments in energy efficiency and renewable-energy strategies. Renewable-energy policy is largely the responsibility of the provinces, and several provinces have already made significant efforts to address climate change. However, the 2017 Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development report concluded that federal government departments and agencies are “nowhere near being ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

A parliamentary review of Canada’s federal environmental assessment and regulatory processes, initiated by the Trudeau government in 2016, led to the proposal of sweeping changes to a number of laws related to the environment. Bill C-69, which passed in June 2019, is designed to streamline the impact assessment process, while simultaneously widening its scope from purely adverse environmental factors to considerations such as the government’s ability to meet its climate-change commitments, contributions to sustainability, and the impact of policies on Indigenous groups and their rights. This measure was applauded by environmental groups and Indigenous peoples, and has the potential to speed up the assessment process and reduce uncertainty, which may also benefit industry.

The government has also passed legislation to impose a carbon tax in provinces without a comparable program. Experts agree that this carbon tax is too low to achieve Canada’s commitments. At the same time, the Trudeau government continues to face fierce opposition to the tax from some provinces. Attempts to challenge the law in court have so far failed, but the issue is expected to go to the Supreme Court.

Citations:
Office of the Auditor General of Canada, 2017 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada, posted at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201710_00_e_42488.html

Theresa McClenaghan (2012) “Bill C-38: Federal Budget Bill 2012 Implications for Federal Environmental Law” Canadian Environmental Law Association, June. http://www.cela.ca/sites/cela.ca/fi les/Bill-C-38-Federal-Budget-Bill-R eview-and-Implications.pdf

Tasker, John Paul. “Trudeau cabinet approves Trans-Mountain, Line 3 pipelines, rejects Northern Gateway.” CBC, November 29, 2016. Accessed on September 27, 2017 at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/federal-cabinet-trudeau-pipeline-decisions-1.3872828

Harris, Kathleen. “Liberals to buy Trans-Mountain pipeline for $4.5B to ensure expansion is built.” CBC, May 29, 2018. Accessed on November 2, 2018 at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/liberals-trans-mountain-pipeline-kinder-morgan-1.4681911

Global Environmental Protection

#28

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
7
The government of Canada in principle supports the design and advancement of global environmental-protection regimes. In the past, Canada’s approach to environmental policy has, to a large degree, followed that of the United States, given the close economic relations between the two countries. Three years into their mandate, the Liberals have generally focused on domestic policy and have rarely led on new international frameworks for environmental protection. At the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) Prime Minister Trudeau announced CAD 30 million for the world’s poorest countries to combat climate change, and CAD 300 million to the Green Climate Fund for clean technology innovation.

The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which was signed in November 2018 by Canada, the United States and Mexico as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), includes a chapter on environmental cooperation with the stated aim to “promote mutually supportive trade and environmental policies and practices.” Although experts criticized CUSMA as being weak on environmental protection, in particular, because it does not directly address climate change, the new agreement no longer includes NAFTA’s investor-state dispute settlement (“ISDS”) system, which was often used to challenge Canadian environmental decision-making, and which many commentators believed had a chilling effect on environmental regulation in Canada.

Citations:
Michael Connell, Canada: USMCA Trade Deal And The Environment, October 2018, Siskinds LLP. Retrieved Nov 12 2019 at http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/748452/Environmental+Law/USMCA+Trade+Deal+and+the+Environment
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