OECD Environmental Performance Reviews

1990-0090 (online)
1990-0104 (print)
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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews provide independent assessments of countries’ progress towards their environmental policy objectives. Reviews promote peer learning, enhance government accountability, and provide targeted recommendations aimed at improving environmental performance, individually and collectively. They are supported by a broad range of economic and environmental data, and evidence-based analysis. Each cycle of Environmental Performance Reviews covers all OECD countries and selected partner economies.

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Canada 2017

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19 Dec 2017
9789264279612 (PDF) ; 9789264279629 (EPUB) ;9789264279605(print)

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Canada, the world's second largest country by area, has abundant natural resources. Its vast territory includes large tracts of undisturbed wilderness. However, urbanisation and agriculture are putting pressure on the natural asset base. Since 2000, Canada has made progress in decoupling economic growth from air pollution, energy consumption and GHG emissions, but it remains one of the most energy- and emissions-intensive economies in the OECD. Further progress is needed to transition to a green, low-carbon economy.

This is the third Environmental Performance Review of Canada. It evaluates progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with special features on climate change mitigation and urban wastewater management.

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  • Preface

    Canada, the world’s second largest country by area and the eleventh largest economy in the OECD, has abundant natural resources. It is one of the world’s biggest energy producers, as well as a major producer and exporter of agricultural products. Its vast territory hosts a great diversity of ecosystems and large tracts of it are undisturbed wilderness. This third Environmental Performance Review of Canada shows that it has successfully decoupled several environmental pressures from economic growth. Yet it faces challenges associated with high energy and resource consumption, high greenhouse gas emissions, and local pressures regarding biodiversity and water resources. While most Canadians enjoy clean air and good access to environmental services, many Indigenous communities lack equal access to essential services while being more exposed to environmental risks.

  • Foreword

    The principal aim of the OECD Environmental Performance Review programme is to help member and selected partner countries improve their individual and collective performance in environmental management by:

  • Reader's guide

    The following signs are used in Figures and Tables:

  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Basic statistics of Canada (2015 or latest available year)
  • Executive summary

    The second largest country in the world by area, Canada endows vast natural resources and a great biological diversity. Natural-resource based activities such as mining, fossil fuel extraction, agricultural forestry and fisheries provide for an important share of national income and exports. Canadians generally enjoy a high level of well-being, although parts of the population, particularly Indigenous peoples, lack equal opportunities and access to essential services. While Canada has decoupled a number of environmental pressures from economic growth, it remains one of the most energy- and resource- intensive economies in the OECD. Canada is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the OECD and emissions show no sign of falling yet. Fossil fuels remain the dominant energy source. The emission of local air pollutants decreased, but outdoor air pollution continues to harm Canadians. Waste is predominantly landfilled and recycling rates are low in most provinces and territories. Pressures on biodiversity and water bodies remain high in certain areas.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    The Assessment and recommendations present the main findings of the Environmental Performance Review of Canada and identify 46 recommendations to help Canada make further progress towards its environmental policy objectives and international commitments. The OECD Working Party on Environmental Performance reviewed and approved the Assessment and recommendations at its meeting on 28 June 2017. Actions taken to implement selected recommendations from the 2004 Environmental Performance Review are summarised in the Annex.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Progress towards sustainable development

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    • Environmental performance: Trends and recent developments

      Canada’s economy has grown strongly over the past decade, supported by high commodity prices that boosted income from energy and agricultural exports. However, economic growth has increased energy and resource use, escalating environmental pressures. This chapter examines the country’s progress in decoupling economic activity from these environmental pressures, focusing on the period since 2000. It presents the key socio-economic developments and reviews Canada’s progress in moving towards an energy-efficient and low-carbon economy; resource efficiency in material consumption and waste management; and sustainable management of the natural asset base.

    • Environmental governance and management

      Canada has improved the effectiveness of multi-level environmental governance and enhanced the engagement of Indigenous peoples in environmental decision making. However, more needs to be done to build on recent progress in these areas and adopt good international practices in environmental assessment and permitting. This chapter analyses Canada’s environmental governance system, including the institutional and regulatory frameworks and measures to ensure compliance with environmental law. It also assesses progress in promoting environmental democracy through public participation, access to information, justice and education.

    • Towards green growth

      While progress towards green growth has been relatively slow since the last review in 2004, Canada is now building strong policy frameworks and measures to support its green growth transition. It is also establishing new collaborative efforts across federal, provincial and territorial governments. This chapter presents Canada’s progress towards green growth, considering environmentally related taxation, other economic instruments, investments in environmental infrastructure and services, the state of eco-innovation and markets for environmental goods and services, measures to address the social consequences of green growth, and the interaction between environment and international trade and development assistance.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Progress towards selected environmental objectives

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    • Climate change mitigation in electricity generation and transport

      Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest in the OECD on a per capita basis. Emissions are almost 20% above the 1990 level, and have fallen back only slightly since 2000. Meeting the 2030 emissions reduction target will require a major shift in policy. Recognising this, Canada developed the first-ever overarching plan to meet the target in a co-ordinated approach among federal, provincial and territorial levels. This chapter discusses Canada’s climate policy and some of the challenges involved in its climate targets. It focuses particularly on electricity generation and transport.

    • Urban wastewater management

      This chapter examines urban wastewater management policies in Canada over the last decade. It discusses recent developments that have strengthened the policy framework. These include the Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent and the first national regulation for wastewater treatment. The chapter highlights some of the most salient challenges that still need to be tackled, including the detrimental situation of Indigenous peoples, the lack of a sustainable financing strategy and the need to swiftly adapt to a changing climate and precipitation patterns. It suggests areas for improvement in the use of pricing instruments and of incentives to explore innovative approaches to manage waste- and rainwater, among others.

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