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2017-2020 Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy - Updated version

NOTE: Subsequent to the tabling in Parliament and online publication, Global Affairs Canada’s 2017-20 Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy was updated during the course of the development of the 2018-19 Departmental Plan in April 2018, and the 2019-20 Departmental Plan in April 2019. The edits include:

The original document was tabled in Parliament on October 6, 2017.

Section 1: Context for the Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy

The 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) presents the Government of Canada’s sustainable development goals and targets, as required by the Federal Sustainable Development Act. In keeping with the objectives of the Act to integrate environmental, social and economic considerations into decision-making, and make such decisions more transparent and accountable to Parliament, Global Affairs Canada supports reaching goals laid out in the FSDS through the activities described in this Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy (DSDS).

Section 2: Sustainable Development in Global Affairs Canada

Global Affairs Canada has a strong commitment to domestic and international sustainable development across its business lines, including promoting Canada’s interests and values, advancing Canada’s trade and investment opportunities, contributing to peace, security and development, helping Canadians abroad, and enabling Canada’s presence abroad.

Global Affairs Canada is actively engaged in delivering on the Government’s commitment to make Canada a leader in international efforts to combat climate change, seeking opportunities to enhance environmental sustainability both at home and abroad. The department actively participates in coordinated global efforts in support of regions disproportionately and negatively affected by climate change. Through innovative policies, practices, partnerships and programming, Global Affairs Canada is committed to positioning Canada at the forefront of global problem-solving.

Canada is committed to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—a universal global framework to eradicate poverty and build peace, prosperity and sustainable development for all. The 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are interconnected, and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic, and environmental. The FSDS goals were developed in alignment with the SDGs. Global Affairs Canada recognizes the need to work with a broad range of partners to achieve the SDGs by 2030, including women, youth, civil society, Indigenous peoples, multilateral and international organizations, philanthropic foundations, governments at all levels, the private sector, and others to find innovative and integrated solutions to create a more sustainable world. 

Canada has adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy that seeks to reduce extreme poverty and build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world. The policy recognizes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving this goal. In doing so, it will support targeted actions, investments, partnerships, innovation and advocacy efforts that will most effectively reach the poorest and most vulnerable, so everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from sustainable development.  With SDG5 acting as an entry point for the Feminist International Assistance Policy, Global Affairs Canada will work to advance all 17 SDGs, while leaving no one behind. 

There are 13 FSDS goals and Global Affairs Canada contributes to the following:

FSDS Goal: Effective action on climate change

As climate change is a global challenge, Global Affairs Canada’s contributions to addressing climate change internationally will contribute to achieving Canada’s domestic FSDS goals.

In collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Global Affairs Canada actively engages in a leadership role in the negotiation and implementation of international environmental agreements and initiatives on climate change, including at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and other bilateral and multilateral environmental agreements and processes, by providing policy and legal advice. Canada will continue to co-chair the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, and in March 2017 Canada rejoined the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

Ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Canada pledged to invest       $2.65 billion by 2020 to help developing countries transition to low-carbon, climate-resistant economies. Canada’s contribution will be invested in sectors such as clean technology and renewable energy, climate-smart agriculture, sustainable forest and water management, and climate risk resilience. The department will actively seek to leverage private sector investment and engagement. This is a historic contribution, and signals Canada’s strong commitment to addressing global climate change and refocusing development assistance on the poorest and most vulnerable. To achieve this, a Climate Finance Division has been newly created.

On June 9, 2017, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, launched Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy. In addition to its emphasis on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, this policy will drive progress in the area of environment and climate action, identified as one of the priority action areas. Under this action area, the Government commits to supporting developing countries to plan and implement initiatives to mitigate and adapt to climate change; advance women's leadership and decision-making; and create economic opportunities for women in clean energy. Canada will also continue to assess all of its development assistance programming for potential risks and opportunities with respect to environmental sustainability and to work with its partner countries to ensure that they have the capacity to do the same. Through the integration of environmental sustainability—which includes climate change mitigation and adaption—into its development policies and programming, Canadian international assistance will continue to ensure that the environment is preserved, and where possible, that environmental conditions are improved and that we seize environmental opportunities, for example to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Affairs Canada also supports environmental protection through the negotiation and implementation of our free trade agreements. Core environment provisions in Canada’s free trade agreements focus on obligations aimed at maintaining high levels of environmental protection and robust environmental governance. These provisions seek to ensure that high environmental standards are upheld as trade is liberalized, and that those standards are not weakened to attract trade or investment. Canada also conducts environmental assessments of trade negotiations, identifying potentially positive and negative environmental impacts on the Canadian environment resulting from a proposed trade agreement.

Moreover, Canadian companies operating abroad are expected to follow environmental laws and practices, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities to work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. For those companies working in jurisdictions where local laws are not aligned with Canadian values, the Government of Canada encourages them to find ways to reflect Canadian values that also respect local laws. In order to support Canadian companies strengthen corporate social responsibility (CSR), Global Affairs Canada: provides advice on CSR; supports host nations to strengthen the environment affecting responsible business practices; promotes internationally recognized CSR standards; and, facilities dialogue through two dispute resolution mechanisms, the CSR Counsellor for the Extractive Sector Abroad and Canada’s National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Canada stresses the need for corporate accountability. A Canadian company that chooses not to engage meaningfully with Canada’s CSR dispute resolution mechanisms will face denial or withdrawal of Government of Canada trade advocacy and economic support in foreign markets.

FSDS Goal: Low-carbon government

Reinforcing the commitment by federal, provincial and territorial governments, through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Global Affairs Canada is continuing efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the Government of Canada’s operations abroad through implementation of the Real Property Sustainable Buildings Strategy. The department prioritizes the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a key cornerstone of the FSDS and 2030 SDGs, and works to review and implement procurement practices to align with green objectives. Global Affairs Canada continues to apply sustainable design standards to new construction and major renovation projects, and implement alternative clean energy where feasible, and install lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems using clean technologies. For example, a solar power system providing 45,000 kilowatt-hours per year has been installed at the High Commission of Canada to India in New Delhi, and new Canadian technology to capture sunlight and direct it into multipurpose gathering space has been piloted at the Embassy of Canada to Germany in Berlin.

In addition to Global Affairs Canada’s work to reduce environmental impacts at headquarters and at missions abroad, the department engages in sustainable procurement practices, including by ensuring commodities are procured from sustainably responsible manufacturers, can be reused, repaired and recycled, have reduced hazardous chemicals, and can be disposed in a sustainable manner. In the fall 2017, a Department-wide Green Team, call ECO-GAC was created. The goal of ECO-GAC is to bring more environmental sustainable practices in GAC’s operation and buildings and influence the habits of GAC employees toward more sustainable practices at work and at home. ECO-GAC is dedicated to four major issues: waste management, transportation, infrastructure and awareness. ECO-GAC is part of the Green Mobilization Network own by Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) which regroup all Green Teams from Federal Government.

While some travel will always be required to fulfill the Global Affairs Canada’s mandate, the department actively promotes sustainable travel practices through information sessions and guidance to staff. It also promotes the use of alternate meeting solutions, such as video-conferencing, to reduce travel. Staff has access to video-conferencing at headquarters, regional offices and all missions abroad. At headquarters, a shuttle service has been implemented, which allows staff to commute between its three main buildings in a more environmentally friendly manner.  

Global Affairs Canada’s indirect support for other FSDS goals

In addition to the achievement of FSDS goals associated with action on climate change and a commitment to a low-carbon government, Global Affairs Canada also plays an indirect role in FSDS goals for clean growth, healthy coasts and oceans, pristine lakes and rivers, healthy wildlife populations, and safe and healthy communities.

FSDS Goal: Clean growth

The department seeks to promote Canada as a global innovator and leader for clean technologies. Through the new International Business Development Strategy for Clean Technology, Global Affairs Canada will aid Canadian firms in becoming world leaders in the export of clean and sustainable processes. Supporting Canadian companies to export their innovative clean technologies is crucial to a global transition to a clean, low carbon economy. In support of this strategy, the department will establish a new climate finance business development team, enhance international business development support, and increase outreach to encourage and support firms in their efforts to capitalize on rapidly growing opportunities in the global market for clean technology. In addition to promoting exports, clean technology is one of 14 proactive sectors where Global Affairs Canada seeks to attract, expand and retain foreign direct investment to support sustainable economic growth.

As a participant in the World Trade Organization’s Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations, the department is seeking to conclude an ambitious agreement that expands market access for Canada’s export of environmental goods and increases their availability for Canadians, which will contribute to efforts to address environmental challenges such as greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. The department also promotes Canada’s clean technology sector through implementation of its Real Property Sustainable Buildings Strategy.

FSDS Goal: Healthy coasts and oceans

Global Affairs Canada is working in close cooperation with other departments, such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to protect the marine environment and support the sustainable management of marine resources, close to home and around the world. Those actions are part of the broader Canadian effort to support the establishment and effective use of a comprehensive network of international institutions and sound international rules aimed at promoting sustainable development and environmental protection. Canada made oceans a priority under its 2018 G7 Presidency. As part of our Presidency, Canada committed $120M to address issues related to oceans health and coastal resilience. This is International Assistance Envelope (IAE) funding sourced from Global Affairs Canada’s Strategic Priorities Fund. Of the $120M envelope, $100M is dedicated to addressing oceans plastics and $20M is allocated for activities that support sustainable fisheries in high seas and coastal waters.

Also, the department leads the Canadian delegation in the effort to develop a new United Nations agreement on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, directly implementing an SDG 14 “Life Below Water” commitment. It also leads Canada’s representation at the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and supports related efforts, at the regional and global levels, to protect and manage fish stocks in a responsible manner. In addition, the department leads Canada's presence at the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an organization responsible for managing ocean seabed falling outside of national jurisdiction (representing 50% of the earth’s area). Canada has increased its engagement at the ISA, being elected to the 15-member finance committee for the first time in 2017, in addition to being re-elected to the council (the 36-member decision-making organ of the ISA). The ISA has set an ambitious two-year timeline for the completion of mining regulations, including in the areas of environmental standards, environmental impact assessments, royalties, liability, inspections and enforcement. Canada continues to advocate for transparency in rule making, broad stakeholder engagement, the use of the best available science, and swift and pre-emptive action to protect the marine environment in cases of non-compliance. 

FSDS Goal: Pristine lakes and rivers

Through many cooperation mechanisms between Canada and the United States, including through the work of the International Joint Commission created under the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, Global Affairs Canada leads the Canadian effort at ensuring the effective and responsible management of the many lakes, rivers and other bodies of water that cross our shared border.

FSDS Goal: Healthy wildlife populations

Global Affairs Canada actively supports Canada’s contribution to global efforts aimed at protecting biodiversity and curbing illegal trade in endangered species, including through the work of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and the work of various regional fisheries management organizations.

FSDS Goal: Safe and healthy communities

Global Affairs Canada is dedicated to ensuring Canadians and citizens everywhere are able to live in clean, sustainable communities that contribute to their health and well-being. The effect of deliberate use of, and/or accidents involving, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons and materials on human health and the global environment is both acute and persistent: food, water, soil and air may remain contaminated long after exposure. Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat Reduction Program aims to reduce this risk by undertaking projects in priority regions of the globe to detect, secure, and destroy vulnerable CBRN materials and strengthen the global response to CBRN threats. Global Affairs Canada also continues to work with partners, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, to ensure that civilian nuclear facilities respect international safety standards and do not pose a threat to the environment.

In addition, the department’s work to improve peace and security around the world, including through the Anti-Crime and Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Programs and the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs), reduces global threats to security and sustains peace in fragile and conflict-affected states. The environmental degradation that results from extreme violence and war is known—from contamination by explosives, to the destruction of water treatment facilities, to mass displacements of communities with limited means to address sanitation or other land and water protection issues. Through efforts to address violent conflict, build resilience and sustain peace in fragile and conflict-assisted states, Global Affairs Canada contributes to increasing the safety, health and environmental sustainability of communities around the globe.

By working to reduce conflict, promote inclusion and stop human rights abuses, PSOPs work can contribute to reduced migration from people fleeing conflict and persecution.  Conflicts over natural resources are common, with issues such as water use, grazing rights and mining activity adding to other drivers of conflict further exacerbated by increased pressure from climate change. In the face of climate change and its adverse impacts on these drivers of conflict, building the capacity of communities to address conflicts without violence is increasingly important.

Global Affairs Canada actively supports Canada’s contribution to global efforts aimed at restricting or controlling the use, circulation and disposal of chemical substances and waste, including through the work of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.  

Section 3: Commitments for Global Affairs Canada

Low-Carbon Government: The Government of Canada leads by example by making its operations low-carbon
Low-carbon government FSDS target(s)FSDS contributing action(s)Corresponding departmental action(s)Support for UN Sustainable Development Goal targetStarting point(s), target(s) and performance indicator(s) for departmental actionsLink to the department’s Program Inventory

Reduce GHG emissions from federal government buildings and fleets by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, with an aspiration to achieve this reduction by 2025

Modernize our fleet

  • Purchase two new vehicles categorized as low emission (hybrid or full electric)
  •  2018 - Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • 2018 - Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Percentage of low emission vehicles in the department’s domestic fleet

Starting point: 42% hybrid fleet in January 2017

Target: 70 % by 2020

Currently 56% 6 of 11

57. Materiel Management

Support the transition to a low-carbon economy through green procurement

  • Ensure that the Global Affairs Canada procurement community receives green procurement training and continues to promote the use of green products.

Percentage of procurement and materiel management specialists that have completed the CSPS green procurement course (C215).

Starting point: 80%

Target: 85% by 2020

54. Information Management

55. Information Technology

58. Acquisition Management

  • Implement a global printer cyclical replacement strategy, which will incorporate green procurement.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: 12.7
  • Global Affairs Canada will promote sustainable public procurement practices by adopting a strategy to reduce paper consumption at its headquarters.

Proposed indicator & starting point:

% of reduction in the number of printed pages per user at HQ ( total printed pages at HQ divided by the number of users)

Starting point: 3294 pages per user at HQ in 2017 (24,370,129 pages / 7373 users)

Result: 8.7% reduction between 2017 and 2018

Target: 5% reduction by 2020Footnote 1

  • Ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated into corporate policies, processes and practices in accordance with departmental refresh cycles.

Proposed indicator:

the corporate policies, processes and practices are reviewed on a cyclical basis and changed when/if/as required to be up to date 

Target:  once a year.Footnote 2

  • Implement a comprehensive device strategy policy, which will ensure sustainability of IT asset management, reduce evergreening costs and duplication of devices.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: 12.7
  • Global Affairs Canada will promote the implementation for sustainable public policies and procurement by reducing the duplication of devices with its comprehensive device strategy policy.

Number of devices per employee.

Starting point: 1.25

Target:  52% at HQ and 22% at missions will be converted to a Single Device by 2020

GAC has a mobility-enabled workforce and provides staff with options for mobile devices over desktops at cyclical replacement, increasing the number of clients that have been converted to a Single Device (where possible) by 2020.


Promote sustainable travel practices

  • Encourage and facilitate the use of sustainable travel practices.

Number of information sessions or communications on travel that includes guidance on sustainable travel practices.

Starting point (baseline): Not applicable.

Target: 100% by 2020


53. Financial Management

  • Continue to operate the IntraBus shuttle service transporting staff between its three main buildings at headquarters.

Average number of shuttle service passengers per day.

Starting point: 200

Target: 450 by 2020

Percentage reduction in the cost of taxi services, as compared to pre-implementation of the shuttle service.

Starting point: $1,372,000 in 2013-14Footnote 3)

Target: $1,956,600 by 2020

  • Work with Shared Services Canada to increase network bandwidth at missions abroad.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: 9C
  • Global Affairs Canada will work with Shared Services Canada to increase access to information and communications technology by upgrading bandwidth at Canadian missions abroad.

Number of missions where the bandwidth was upgraded

Starting point: upgrades underway at 15 of the most congested sites.

Target:100% by 2020

All missions will operate with a minimum of 4MB, and will experience significantly improved performance on the WAN through the use of diverse network links to offload traffic by 2020.

Effective Action on Climate Change: A low-carbon economy contributes to limiting global average temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius and supports efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius

Effective action on climate change FSDS target(s)FSDS contributing action(s)Corresponding departmental action(s)Support for UN Sustainable Development Goal targetStarting point(s), target(s) and performance indicator(s) for departmental actionsLink to the department’s Program Inventory
By 2030, reduce Canada’s total GHG emissions by 30%, relative to 2005 emission levelsTake a leading role in international agreements and initiatives on climate change
  • Work with Environment and Climate Change Canada to play a leadership role and provide policy and legal advice to support the negotiation and implementation of international environmental agreements and initiatives on climate change, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement.

Degree to which high quality and timely legal advice regarding Canada’s international legal obligations is considered and integrated into Government of Canada positions on environmental law in international forums.

“Not applicable.” 

14.  Environment and climate change28. Partnerships and Development innovation
  • Advance a progressive trade agenda, including integrating robust environment provisions in trade agreements, and supporting clean technology exports.

Degree to which environmental provisions are integrated in free trade agreements and other aspects of Canada's trade agenda.

Not applicable.

Target: 100% by 2020

  • Deliver on Canada's pledge to provide $2.65 billion in climate financing to support developing countries' transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies, in line with Canada's feminist international assistance policy priorities.

Degree to which agreements with partners are finalized to deliver and implement $2.65 billion of climate financing by the end of FY 20/21.

Target: 70% by 2020

  • Integrate environmental sustainability throughout Canadian development assistance, to ensure that Canadian international investments do not result in significant adverse environmental effects, in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target: 12A
  • By ensuring that all its development assistance initiatives undergo an environmental analysis, Global Affairs Canada will ensure that development assistance supports environmental sustainability and does not result in adverse environmental effects.

% of Global Affairs Canada’s development assistance initiatives that underwent an environmental analysis

Starting point: 100%

Target: 100% by 2020 

Section 4: Integrating sustainable development

To make informed decisions in support of sustainable development, decision-makers at all levels must be able to integrate economic, social and environmental considerations. The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Directive) is the key federal policy that formally integrates environmental and sustainable development considerations into federal government decision-making through application of strategic environmental assessment (SEA).  SEA provides a systematic approach to help identify environmental risks and opportunities early in proposal development by considering influences such as institutional, governance, legislative, biophysical, social, and economic, on the achievement of strategic objectives. The Directive also supports the government’s approach to sustainable development by requiring that SEAs consider how proposals could affect the achievement of goals and targets identified in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

A SEA for the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) was also created to support the integration of environment and climate change considerations in development initiatives. All initiatives falling under the FIAP must follow the department’s Environmental Integration Process (EIP). For more information, please visit GAC Strategic Environmental Assessment Public Statements.

Global Affairs Canada has a complex and diverse mandate as it manages Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, promotes the country’s international trade and leads Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance. In support of this mandate, the department requires the Directive be applied to all policy, plan or programs proposals to Cabinet, Treasury Board, Central Agencies and Ministers.

The department has put in place a three-stage risk-based review process for proposals submitted to ministers or to Cabinet (i.e., screening, preliminary scan, detailed analysis). This includes consideration of the proposal’s potential contribution to the achievement of the goals and targets of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The screening stage helps determine exemptions from assessment consistent with the objectives of the Directiveand the mandate of the department.  The preliminary scan is an analysis to determine the potential for important positive and negative environmental effects through the examination of the environmental opportunities and risks associated with strategic options. The preliminary scan helps to determine the most appropriate level of review. 

Following the preliminary scan, a detailed analysis may be required. A detailed analysis is warranted when:

Finally, once a proposal is publically announced, a statement of the environmental effects determined from the detailed analysis will be released.

Environmental effects statements

In addition to the application of the Directive as described above, the department has developed a specialized SEA review process for trade negotiations.  This contributes to more open decision-making within the federal government by engaging representatives from other levels of government, the public, the private sector and non-governmental organizations in this process. It also improves overall policy coherence at the national level by helping decision-makers understand the environmental implications of trade policy. For more information, please visit Environmental Assessments of Trade Negotiations.

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