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Strategic Environmental Assessment: International Dimension of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework

The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework provides overarching direction to the Government of Canada’s priorities, activities and investments in the Arctic to 2030 and beyond in order to better align Canada’s national and international policy objectives with the priorities of Northerners.  

A Detailed Analysis of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework’s international dimension was conducted in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on Environmental Assessment of Policies, Plans, and Program proposals.  The Detailed Analysis identified climate change as the most significant environmental issue facing the Arctic.

With the Arctic warming more than twice as rapidly as the global mean, the region is experiencing numerous and varied changes such as melting sea ice and glaciers, ocean acidification, thawing permafrost, and changes to wildlife habitat and migration patterns. These changes have significant impacts on Northerners, especially Indigenous peoples, who live off the land. Arctic flora and fauna are essential to the economic, cultural, social and ceremonial activities which sustain Arctic and northern communities.

While protecting the Arctic environment is important to Northerners, they would also like to see the Framework prioritize socio-economic issues and close gaps between Northern and Southern Canada on issues such as employment, income, education, life expectancy, and food security to name only a few.

The Detailed Analysis examined opportunities for Canada to better leverage its international policy to protect the Arctic environment while addressing some of the region’s most pressing socio-economic issues. It found that many of the environmental issues facing the Arctic require coordinated action on a regional and/or global scale. As a result, the Framework’s international dimension is expected to produce important net positive environmental effects. This will be achieved by prioritizing actions that enhance international cooperation on climate change mitigation and adaptation, contaminants, marine protection, biodiversity conservation among other issues.

The Detailed Analysis also found that international trade and foreign investment could be a tool for helping to diversify Canada’s Arctic and northern economy and reduce the reliance on major natural resources projects. While the analysis identified potential for adverse environmental effects as a result of possible foreign direct investment in natural resources projects, these projects would be subject to all applicable domestic environmental regulations.

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