Video—Canada’s Environment Commissioner calls for action on sustainable development and climate change

Video Transcript

Hello. My name is Julie Gelfand, and I am Canada’s federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Today, I want to talk to you about what I believe are two of the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and sustainable development.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described these issues as “two sides of the same coin. I share this view.

First, let’s consider climate change. Just recently, in December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, countries entered into a landmark agreement on climate, with a goal of keeping temperature increases to below two degrees Celsius.

This conference was preceded by rising interest and action among leaders worldwide about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The wave also spread across Canada.

At the Québec Summit on Climate Change in April 2015, 11 Canadian premiers committed to foster a transition to a lower-carbon economy.

Then, in July 2015, Canada’s premiers released a Canadian Energy Strategy in which they recognize the importance of transforming governments’ approach to addressing climate change.

Prior to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Canada indicated it would reduce its emissions by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels, and that it would do so by 2030. Since then, the government has indicated that it considers this target to be a minimum, and it has committed to work with the provinces to develop a Canadian plan to tackle climate change.

Between 1998 and 2014, our Office repeatedly audited the federal government’s efforts to mitigate climate change in Canada. We found that reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions were not being met.

In 2014, we observed that the federal government did not yet have a plan for how it would work toward the greater reductions required beyond 2020, and that it was not coordinating with the provinces and territories to achieve the target.

To truly move forward on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it will be important for the federal government to actively engage all its partners not only in setting Canada’s future targets, but also in achieving them.

Let’s turn now to the sustainable development side of the coin. Sustainable development speaks to the way we can manage things today to ensure the well-being of present and future generations.

On 25 September 2015, 193 world countries committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related 17 sustainable development goals. They are often referred to as the Global Goals.

Canada and other countries agreed to “take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path.” To be achieved over 15 years, the Global Goals are “integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the social, economic, and environmental.”

A clear indicator of Canada’s commitment to fighting climate change and achieving sustainable development will be the full integration of the Global Goals and the Paris Conference climate change commitments into Canada’s next Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

Concrete actions on these commitments will put Canada on the road to meeting the needs of present and future generations. I look forward to reporting to Parliament on the government’s progress in achieving these all-important goals.