Highlights of environment commissioner's fall report

Highlights from the fall 2014 report of Canada's environment and sustainable development commissioner, released Tuesday.
Environmental Commissioner Julie Gelfand speaks about her 2014 fall report at a news conference Tuesday. Gelfand found Ottawa lacks a plan to reduce carbon emissions and does not have a long-term approach to managing the Arctic. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Highlights from the fall 2014 report of Canada's environment and sustainable development commissioner, released Tuesday:

  • Canada lacks a coherent plan mapping out how it intends to meet its stated target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. Existing measures will have little impact on emissions, and there is strong evidence that the target will be missed.
  • Greenhouse-gas regulations for Canada's oil and gas sector, where emissions are growing the fastest, are still not in place eight years after they were initially promised.
  • Efforts to monitor the environmental impact of oilsands development in Alberta should be better integrated, along with traditional ecological knowledge and the input of aboriginal stakeholders, to properly understand the cumulative impact.
  • Marine traffic in the Arctic is on the increase, but higher-risk areas remain poorly surveyed and charted, including maps that are badly outdated some are more than 40 years old, and most were produced with antiquated technology.
  • The Canadian Coast Guard is unable to properly meet growing demand for new and improved fixed navigational aids, such as beacons and shore lights.
  • Despite growth in traffic and a shipping season that continues to get longer, icebreakers are spending less time in the Arctic and the coast guard does not have the resources to respond to an increasing demand for icebreaking services; plans to refit some in the fleet and decommission others mean a maximum of five icebreakers will be available through 2021.
  • Canada lacks a long-term national vision or co-ordinated departmental strategy to support safe Arctic marine navigation, and the coast guard does not know if its services are meeting the needs of users, nor has it adequately assessed the level of risk posed by its reduced presence in the Arctic.
  • The rationale used to determine whether projects should be subject to an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act remains unclear, posing a risk that their environmental impacts aren't properly evaluated.
  • Many public groups and stakeholders, including Aboriginal Peoples, are unable to participate fully and meaningfully in the environmental assessment process.