The relationship of science to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

Petition: 408

Issue(s): Biological diversity, climate change, human / environmental health, other, science and technology

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Parksville, British Columbia

Date Received: 16 June 2017

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition concerns the Government of Canada’s Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also pursuing economic growth. The petition questions the extent to which the Strategy is informed by science, given that research suggests that there are limits to economic growth. The petition indicates that the government’s policies must be guided by the precautionary principle and the principles of sustainability.

The petition requests the government’s evidence that economic growth and increasing greenhouse gas emissions can occur in conjunction. The petition questions how Canada can meet its Paris Agreement target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also growing the economy. It raises concerns that the approval of the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines and the increasing amount of fossil fuel extraction will increase greenhouse gas emissions. It asks the government for evidence to justify its support of these projects in light of its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The petition asserts that current economic growth patterns have negative effects on Canada’s ecosystems and on Canadian society—they increase poverty, unemployment, and wealth inequality. The petition asks what new actions the federal government plans to take to avoid these negative effects without damaging the environment and while growing the economy. The petition requests that the government provide evidence that economic growth will not reduce biodiversity or the well-being of people and organisms.

The petition questions how the government’s commitment, stated in the Strategy, to protect 17 percent of lands and inland waters, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, by 2020 can be reconciled with the conclusions of ecological studies that at least 50 percent of a region’s ecosystem needs to be left in a natural state to preserve the critical ecological network or bionetwork.  The petition also asks whether the government has considered moving from a constant-growth economic model to an economy based on a sustainable steady-state system aimed at avoiding further losses to ecosystems and biodiversity, and if not, what factors have prevented the government from doing so. The petition also seeks examples of federal policies that take into account environmental costs to avoid further depletion of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Finally, the petition asks what peer-reviewed scientific studies the government is using to support its view that a clean-growth approach can be followed without further damaging the biosphere, and asks how the government is applying the precautionary principle when pursuing this policy.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Employment and Social Development Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Finance Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada