Regaining our focus
Over the past 40 years, ever since the World Conservation Strategy (1980), the World Commission on Environment and Development (1986), our governments have been wrestling with environmental leadership and the challenges of integrating environmental values into our economy and society.
Currently, all provinces, territories and the federal government have a senior environmental strategy of one kind or another. Our preliminary research shows that there is very little consistency in scope or approach between the different jurisdictions:
- There are nine climate strategies, seven sustainable development strategies, two green plans, and one conservation strategy
- Four provinces, (British Columbia, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec) have backed up their strategies with legislation.
- The federal government and Ontario are the only jurisdictions with independent environmental commissioners with a mandate to report on government progress.
- Eight jurisdictions publish state of the environment reports, but there is a wide variance in the information being reported.
- Very few jurisdictions provide significant funding or incentives for conservation. Many, such as Ontario and B.C., provided early funding for community engagement, but these funds were limited and not renewed.
- Few jurisdictions provide a regular review process whereby their strategy can be improved and renewed.
Our preliminary review of Canada’s strategies does show that there are many excellent tools that can be used to promote conservation. including:
- Legislated targets and processes
- Comprehensive scoping combined with a focused action on priorities
- Integration with ministry/department strategic plans
- Incentives and catalytic investment
- State of the Environment reporting
Today, all across Canada people are embracing the value and benefits of a conserver lifestyle — even within an ever-increasing consumer economy. The trends are unmistakable, and they include the shift to fuel-efficient cars, the demand for energy-efficient homes, the rise of farmer’s markets and local food, the steady increase in commuter cycling, and the desire to live in walkable, diverse communities. No longer a fringe activity, the conserver lifestyle is now a significant driving force in the Canadian economy. The high-level environmental strategies of our territorial, provincial and federal governments should embrace this vision and be a catalyst for positive change.
Our goal for Canada Conserves is to help restore Canada’s leadership role in promoting conservation by working with municipal, provincial and the federal government to ensure a common framework for conservation strategies.