Thank you, Chair. It's always a pleasure to visit.
Let me start off by expressing my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to discuss the 2013-2016 draft federal sustainable development strategy.
As you said, I'll begin with a brief statement. I'd like to better introduce to the committee Andrea Lyon, who is my associate deputy minister, and with her is Tony Young, director general of the sustainability directorate and head of the sustainable development office.
We'll be pleased to answer questions after these opening remarks.
Mr. Chair, I'll begin by reflecting for a moment on the origins and evolution of the Federal Sustainable Development Act, back to when the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development was created in 1995 and amendments to the Auditor General Act required the federal government to prepare and to table individual departmental sustainable development strategies. The first system did not work. It did not deliver the intended results. Successive audits between 1997 and 2008 examined various strategies and their outcomes, but without a government-wide strategy, environmental sustainability issues were often pushed to the margins of federal planning and reporting. There were no common goals or targets and no way to measure federal accomplishments.
Our government took action in 2008, and with all-party support the Federal Sustainable Development Act was passed. Two years later we delivered the federal sustainable development strategy. The FSDS, which today remains very much a work in progress, is achieving the original intent: a strategy that makes environmental decision-making both more transparent and accountable. The FSDS provided Canadians for the first time with a comprehensive picture of actions right across government that contribute to environmental sustainability. This integrated whole-of-government picture was provided, as you know, under four key themes: climate change and air quality, water, nature, and of course, greening our government operations.
The FSDS improves the way the federal government plans for sustainable development, and it addresses weaknesses of the old system that had been noted a number of times by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The strategy ensures that environmental objectives are a foundational piece in the government's decision-making processes. It does so by incorporating sustainable development planning and reporting into the government's core expenditure planning and reporting system, as well as integrating it into the strategic environmental assessment process.
Effective measurement, monitoring and reporting are crucial not only to track our progress but also to ensure that Canadians can follow and watch these changes. The federal sustainable development strategy has been well received by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, by the environmental organizations, and by the business community. I'm pleased to report that significant progress has been observed in the three-year interval between 2010 to 2013. Departments and agencies now produce annual departmental sustainable development strategies that are integrated into their core planning and reporting processes and are linked to the overarching federal strategy. As part of our ongoing commitment to measurement, monitoring, and reporting, we have issued two progress reports, as you know, and have expanded our suite of environmental indicators that support federal sustainable development strategy reporting.
I'll detail some of the areas in which the 2012 progress report itemizes what I believe is impressive progress. We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving our natural environment, and ensuring the quality of our air and water. As you know, we have an effective sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and we've already taken action on two of Canada's largest sources of emissions: transportation and electricity. By the time 2025-model-year cars hit our roads, it's estimated that vehicles will be consuming 50% less fuel and producing 50% fewer emissions compared to 2008 models.
In the coal-fired electricity sector, Canada is the first country in the world to ban construction of traditional technology coal plants. Emissions from the electricity sector are projected to decline by one-third by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. Fully three-quarters of our electricity is now generated without the emission of greenhouse gases. Canada has an electricity system that is one of the cleanest in the world, and it will get even cleaner.
Our government has also shown that economic growth and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. Our 2012 progress report also shows we're making progress with the Great Lakes contaminated sites, the areas of concern, and with protected areas, both terrestrial and marine, across Canada. This brings the total protected areas in Canada to about 10%, or the equivalent of a territory the size of France, Germany, and Austria combined.
These are only some of our achievements to date. I'd now like to turn to the steps we'll be taking to move environmental sustainability forward as indicated in the draft 2013-2016 federal sustainable development strategy, which we released for public consultations in February.
The new strategy outlines an improved framework of sustainable development planning and reporting. It builds on key improvements that we introduced in our 2010 federal sustainable development strategy, but moreover, it underscores our continuing commitment to transparency. Building on the goals and the targets already in place, this new version expands the whole-of-government picture of federal activities aimed at achieving environmental sustainability.
We've expanded the scope of federal actions to include new targets and implementation strategies on climate change adaptation. Great progress has been made in strengthening existing targets, particularly in terms of nutrient loading in the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Winnipeg, and with actions in regard to marine pollution.
At the same time, it's important to note that new and more specific targets will be added to reflect decisions made since the draft strategy was released in February. For example, the new Canadian ambient air quality standards published by Environment Canada and Health Canada are more stringent than current U.S. standards for particulate matter and ground-level ozone, two pollutants of concern to human health and of course the major components of smog.
We'll turn next in the clean air area to development of new industrial emissions regulations of pollutants such as nitrogen and sulphur oxides along with the provinces and territories as part of the new air quality management system. Of course data generated through our partnership with Alberta on oil sands monitoring will continue to be collected and posted on our new Web portal.
We've also expanded the range of indicators to track progress on the strategies, goals, and targets. As a matter of fact, since our first strategy, we have increased the number of indicators to some 36 targets in the 2012 progress report. Work is now under way to increase the number of indicators to more than 40 for better measurement and reporting under the 2013-2016 strategy. Furthermore, it aligns with sustainable development commitments with various departmental performance reporting.
In addition, it builds on the progress we've made in the greening government operations in the areas of real property, fleet, procurement, and general office operations. This new strategy has also been expanded to include clean air agenda reporting commitments, water agreements with Ontario and Manitoba, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, of course, our commitment to a national conservation plan, and Canada's domestic response to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
At the same time it continues to support the integration of sustainable development into our decision-making process through strategic environmental assessments and green procurement.
Now we're asking for the people's input, including from this committee.
As you know, the public consultations process on the draft federal sustainable development strategy is currently under way. We are also engaging a wide range of stakeholders including the Sustainable Development Advisory Council and the interim Commissioner of the Environment, who will be speaking to you about some of his observations on the draft strategy a little later this morning. As with the case with the 2010 strategy, the commissioner's comments will contribute along with input from other consultations into the final strategy to be released this fall.
In response we've received over 40,000 visits to the FSDS website, and we expect substantial input from Canadians as the consultation period draws to a close in mid-June. The final strategy, as you know, will be tabled in Parliament in the fall, greatly informed by the feedback we receive from this committee and from other interventions.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to close by emphasizing that Canada has a very good story to tell regarding our efforts to promote sustainable development at both the domestic and international levels.
We are making concrete progress across the full range of environmental priorities identified in the strategy. The federal government's innovative approach is bringing more transparency and more accountability to environmental decision-making. We are also strengthening sustainable development, which will benefit Canadians today and well into the future.
Mr. Chair, I thank you for this opportunity to speak, and I'd be delighted to field questions.