Video—Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada

Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General—March 2018

Video Transcript

Around the world, citizens are feeling the impacts of a changing climate. Canadians want know what their governments are going to do to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and to adapt to a change in climate.

In 2016, the auditors general of most provinces agreed to assess their governments’ actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

Over the last 18 months, each participating provincial audit office has reported its findings to its own legislature, and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development did the same thing at the federal level in the fall of 2017.

Also, my office has presented its reports on climate change to the legislative assemblies in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. So this collaborative project now has resulted in a summary report that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is delivering to Parliament, today, on behalf of all the audit offices who participated.

This report shows that some efforts are underway across the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the impacts of climate change.

I am pleased that we are able to tell Albertans that the government has a well-designed climate leadership plan.

The report shows that most governments in Canada were not on track to meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. In fact, while half have set overall reduction targets, only two are on track to meet them.

The key message that I would have is that in Nova Scotia: yes, indeed, the 10% reduction target for 2020 was met in 2015, with an 18% reduction. But it really is time now for the government to update its risk assessment and determine what it wants to do, going forward, because it has been indeed 12 years since the last thorough risk assessment was done.

What we found in our 2017 audit work was that Saskatchewan is at the early stages of really developing its overall climate change strategy and more specifically, that climate change plan. It was the ministry of environment was taking the lead in collecting risk assessment data related to climate change that other government organizations had done. And having a risk, an overall, overarching risk assessment from a province perspective, that’s really your first step in developing an adaptation plan.

Sources of greenhouse gas are different across the country. For some, transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, while for others, it is oil and gas, or agriculture, or electricity.

Last fall, I reported that Canada is not expected to meet its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that meeting the 2030 target will require significant effort and actions beyond those currently planned or in place.

This report also shows that most Canadian governments are not ready to deal with the impacts of a changing climate. They have not assessed the risks they face as the climate changes, or actions they should take to adapt.

Our audit of climate change in the Northwest Territories came at an ideal time because the government is currently putting together a new climate change strategic framework that is intended to deal with both mitigation and adaptation going forward. However, it will be important for that framework to incorporate the recommendations we made in our audit in areas such as developing clear targets, for example, for emissions.

What we found is that the province has demonstrated they are working on and thinking about what needs to be done for adaptation, and the fact that they’ve done these vulnerability assessments. But that needs to be taken to the next level.

Prince Edward Island’s Climate Change Strategy of 2008 included 38 mitigation actions. One of those actions included programs to increase the efficiency of heating island homes and buildings. However, government strategy did not include important information about these mitigation actions.

The findings from the federal, provincial and territorial climate change audits confirm that Canada’s governments are working on climate change, but that the work is far from being done.

Effective action on climate change in Canada will require a concerted effort across all levels of government, such as recent collaboration between the provinces, territories, and federal departments to develop its Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. I encourage you to read the collaborative report on climate change action to find out more about the work of auditors general on climate change.