Greening Government Strategy

Opening Statement before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Greening Government Strategy

(Report 2—2022 Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

18 October 2022

Jerry V. DeMarco
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We are happy to appear before your committee this morning to discuss our audit report on the Greening Government Strategy. The report was tabled in the House of Commons on April 26. I would like to acknowledge that this hearing is taking place on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. With me today is Milan Duvnjak, the principal who was responsible for the audit.

The Greening Government Strategy was launched in 2017 to address the significant contribution of federal government operations to Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat revised the strategy to increase the greenhouse gases reduction target to 90% below baseline emissions for the 2005–06 fiscal year by 2050. The goal of the strategy is to reduce the government’s environmental footprint and transition to low‑carbon, climate-resilient operations.

The federal government has publicly stated its commitment to reach net‑zero emissions by 2050 and to be a national and global leader in transitioning to carbon-neutral government operations.

For this audit, we focused on the greenhouse gas emissions aspect of the Greening Government Strategy. In particular, we examined whether the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat led the strategy in a manner that supported departmental progress. We also looked at how National Defence and Transport Canada implemented controls and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, we found that the secretariat had taken steps to support departments’ efforts to reduce the federal government’s environmental footprint. However, we are now 5 years into the strategy, and efforts to reduce emissions are not as complete as they could be. Important information on greening government was hard to find, unclear, or insufficient. This included a lack of detail on costs and savings.

In addition, the majority of indirect emissions have not been reported, and the emissions of Crown corporations were not part of the strategy.

At the time of this audit, 8 of the 27 departments had created reduction plans, accounting for 81% of departmental emissions. When we looked at National Defence––the largest emitter in government––we found that the actions described in its plan did not make it clear how the department would meet the 2050 target. When we looked at Transport Canada, it was also unclear how it would meet the target because it did not provide enough context on its reported emissions or results.

This lack of information makes it difficult for decision makers, parliamentarians, and Canadians to track whether the federal government will meet its 2050 target and whether Canada is actually being the global leader in greening government that it has set out to be. More work is needed to ensure that the Greening Government Strategy delivers the desired results and that complete plans and methods are put in place to track and report on emission reductions.

Climate change is an intergenerational crisis, and the time to take effective action is rapidly closing. Canada must transition from commitments and planning to meaningful action and results.

We made 6 recommendations in this report. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat fully agreed with 4 of the 5 recommendations directed at the secretariat. It partially agreed with the recommendation about tracking the costs and savings related to greening government. National Defence and Transport Canada agreed with the recommendation directed at them.

On the topic of greening government, I would also like to note that on October 4th my Fall reports were tabled in Parliament. This included our report on the fairness of the government’s 2021 progress report on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. We found that that progress reporting information for 5 of the 8 targets under the goal of greening government was incomplete and untimely. The progress information for these targets was incomplete either because only a small number of the 26 departments in fact did report their progress or because they presented no results at all.

Mr. Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be happy to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.