ARCHIVED - Sustainable Development

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Measuring the Vision

On the first two pages of this document, readers were supplied with NRCan’s vision of a sustainable future. We believe the actions identified within this document represent concrete steps to move Canada along the path towards this future. In this context, to advance sustainable development, Canadians and the international community need reliable and up-to-date information on the state of sustainable development.

Sustainable development requires making informed policy choices based upon the integration of economic, environmental and social considerations into the decision making process. Indicators of sustainable development would communicate the results of implementing decisions and provide the foundation for continuous improvement in advancing sustainable development.

Developing adequate measurement tools with regard to the natural resources sector will help to ensure that NRCan and Canada are able to report to stakeholders on sustainable development. Without having a concrete set of indicators, it will continue to be difficult to monitor Canada’s progress and to focus activities toward sustainable development.

Under the federal Policy Research Initiative Sustainability Project, NRCan and Statistics Canada are co-leading a project on sustainable development indicators, with the participation of ten other federal departments. This project has been set up to review and analyze the many national and international approaches to developing interlinked indicators for sustainable development. The project explores the potential applicability of selected activities and sets of indicators relevant to policy making in Canada. This project is contributing to the development of a set of national indicators of sustainable development, being developed by the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, which the federal government committed itself to in the February 2000 Budget. It feeds into the Knowledge and Information/Sustainable Development Indicators theme that has been adopted by federal departments and agencies as a result of the Leaders’ Forum of federal Deputy Ministers and leaders from industry and civil society, in April 2000.

For NRCan to continue to lead on sustainable development there is a need to demonstrate the capacity to provide the economic, social and scientific information to inform decision making regarding our natural resources. Currently the Department collects and provides information on economic, social and environmental indicators in a number of venues, and is in the process of developing sustainable development indicators within our various sectors. Providing Canadians with access to this information is a necessary step and it may prove the need to refine these indicators further.

In November 1999, NGOs, Aboriginal communities, academia, industry and government came together to build a framework for indicators of sustainable development for minerals and metals. A fair and open process contributed to a spirit of cooperation, resulting in a consensus on a common vision statement for minerals and metals production and use in Canada. Upon the conclusion of a consultation period, the steering committee with the aid of a reconfigured multi stakeholder working group will develop a draft set of sustainable development indicators for minerals and metals.

Over the past year, NRCan has undertaken an extensive internal exercise to develop a national set of indicators for energy. Indicators have been developed that address the three components of sustainable development, with a focus on establishing indicators where there is overlap between the economic, social and environmental elements of sustainable development. External consultations over the fall of 2000 have confirmed the approach that has been taken.

An extensive user requirements study for the sustainable development policy community, conducted by the National Atlas of Canada, has suggested a series of requirements in order to make efficient use of geospatial information in support of the sustainable development policy process. The Atlas role in sustainable development rests upon how it presents comprehensive, consistent, integrative and authoritative national scale view of the physical, economic, environmental, social and cultural makeup of Canada.

In 1995 the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ developed a framework of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. In 1997, Canada followed up on this framework by publishing Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management, a document that described Canada’s ability to report on sustainability. At their August 14, 2000 annual meeting, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) released its “Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management: National Status 2000” report, which illustrates Canada’s continued commitment and scientific approach toward the sustainable management of its forests.

On an international level, providing such information, provides a window which allows Canada to report on the sustainable development of our natural resources to organizations such as the OECD. Our work in Criteria and Indicaters, in Canada, and as Liaison Office for, and member of the Montréal Criteria and Indicators Process which involves twelve major temperate and boreal forest countries, can allow us to position Canada as a world leader in this area and increase our influence in promoting our international agenda. Furthermore, indicators can allow Canada and our domestic industries to demonstrate to the international community the good practices Canada has adopted.

By the end of 2003, Natural Resources Canada, through its indicator development and reporting, will be in a position to begin measuring progress against NRCan’s Vision for a Sustainable Future.


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