The Current

Canadian government gets 'failing grade' in climate change planning, says environment commissioner

“We continue to not hit our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Environment Commissioner on Ottawa's climate change adaptation


4 years ago
Federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand comments on the government's preparations for climate change. 0:31

Read Story Transcript

Julie Gelfand gives "a failing grade" to 14 government departments for the work they've done in assessing the risks of climate change — departments like National Defence and Infrastructure Canada.

Gelfand, Canada's commissioner of environment and sustainable development, tabled five audit reports yesterday with the House of Commons.

"Unfortunately, in the audit that we've just tabled, we found out that only 5 of the 19 departments that we looked at had actually identified the risks [they face related to climate change]," Gelfand tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Which, to Gelfand is unacceptable, given that the stakes are so high.

"What's at stake is, in a way the world that we used to know and grew up with and are kind of used to is in change."

The Canadian government has $66 billion in assets that could be affected, from ports to buildings to canals.

Each of the 19 departments were asked to do these assessments in 2011.

The five departments that got a passing grade from Gelfand, including Transport Canada, were putting plans in place for how their assets and their work will have to be adapted. But in the rest of the ministries — including Environment and Climate Change Canada — the problems and solutions were still unclear.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna responded to the audits saying, "we know we need to be doing more and that's exactly what we're doing."

But Gelfand says the effects are already being felt.

"We continue to not hit our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," she says.

"We've already missed two complete targets. The 2020 target we're not going to hit as well… During that same time that we've had all these targets, we've developed eight to 10, 11, 12 different plans, and our emissions just keep rising."

Listen to the full interview near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

This segment is part of our season-long series Adaptation looking at the surprising, innovative, and sometimes ill-advised ways we accommodate a rapidly shifting world.