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.

The federal government has established ambitious environmental goals and has re‐affirmed its commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth through its unwavering support for the Paris Agreement.

In this respect, Canada is one of a number of countries which is leading by example. Canada has revived its engagement and leadership in international environmental initiatives. Following a decade where provinces were the primary driving force behind green growth policies, in December 2016, the federal government, the provinces and territories agreed on a Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change – the first-ever collective vision focused on economic growth while reducing emissions and building resilience. This is a significant achievement and rigorous implementation will be important. To this end, better use of environmentally related taxation, which is very limited by OECD standards, can support Canada to achieve its goals. Improved collaboration with provinces and territories and enhanced engagement of Indigenous peoples in environmental decision making should also now be a priority.

The Review pays special attention to climate change mitigation (focusing on electricity generation and transport), as well as urban wastewater management. Canada is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the OECD – and third largest emitter in per capita terms – and emissions show no clear sign of falling. Much of this is attributable to continuously rising fossil fuel use for the development of oil sands and for transport. Four provinces already have a carbon pricing mechanism in place and the Pan-Canadian Framework plans to introduce Canada-wide carbon pricing by 2018. Improving the emissions-intensity of the oil sands industry will be critical to achieve Canada’s emission reduction targets.

On the issue of wastewater management, access to, and performance of, urban wastewater treatment is generally good in Canada. However, some large metropolitan centres like Vancouver and Montreal, and many Indigenous communities, lack access to advanced wastewater treatment systems. The development of a national strategy and the new national regulation on wastewater treatment have strengthened the policy framework, even though the new regulation caused some overlap and misalignment with existing provincial and territorial regulation.

This Review is the result of a constructive policy dialogue between Canada and the other members and observers of the OECD Working Party on Environmental Performance. It provides 46 recommendations to help Canada keep greening its economy and improve its environmental governance and management.

I am confident that this collaborative effort will help Canada achieve both its goal of delivering solid economic growth, as well as complying with its internationally-agreed commitments to support better environmental policies for better lives in Canada, in the OECD, and beyond.


Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General