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Sustainable Development Strategy
Moving Forward

Introduction

Sustainable development is central to the mandate of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). In some respects sustainable development is a challenge, but it also brings opportunities for Canadians—helping us to maintain the benefits of resource development, fuelling innovation to create new benefits, and ensuring that future generations will also be able to enjoy a high quality of life, supported in part by our great wealth of natural resources.

The Government of Canada applies the Brundtland definition of sustainable development:

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Our Common Future
World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987

Canada’s natural resources, and efforts to develop them, have greatly influenced the history of our country. The natural resource sectors and allied industries have been an engine of economic growth and job creation for generations. Today, millions of Canadians, in over 650 Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast—many in northern, rural or remote areas—depend on the natural resource sectors for their livelihoods. Together with related equipment, supply and service industries, Canada’s forestry, minerals and metals, and energy sectors are vital components of our overall economy and society — in no other country are the natural resource sectors as important to the economy as they are in Canada. Our natural resources-based industries are dynamic and innovative, and will continue to be a force in building Canada’s future.

The magnitude and diversity of Canada’s natural resources are truly astonishing. Not only does our landscape supply us with the raw resources that are the foundation of a significant portion of our economic activity, it also provides essential ecological services—such as clean air and water—which are essential to our economy, environment and quality of life. On an aesthetic and spiritual level, the vast expanse of the land itself is valued by many as an important aspect of being Canadian. This remains true even as Canada’s population becomes increasingly urban.

Canada is the world’s second largest country in land mass and possesses a significant diversity of physiology, geology, vegetation and climate regions. Canada can be looked at in terms of its 15 distinctive terrestrial ecozones (there are also five marine ecozones), each with its own mosaic of unique features, and communities that demonstrate Canada’s cultural diversity. The map of Canada’s ecozones indicates the rich ecological diversity of the country. Natural resource-based activities figure prominently in Canada’s economy, across ecozones.

Map: Terrestrial Ecozones

Forest covers almost half of the Canadian landscape, representing over 10 percent of the world’s forest cover, 25 percent of the world’s natural forest, 30 percent of the world’s boreal forest and 20 percent of the world’s temperate rainforest. Our forest includes some of the world’s largest intact forest ecosystems. Nearly 94 percent of Canada’s forest is public land. Given this unique inheritance, Canada has both local and global responsibilities to sustainably manage its forest.

Every day people use products that are derived from the mineral richness of the Earth. Canada produces more than 60 minerals and metals, making it a world leader in production and export. Canada ranks first in the world for the production of potash and uranium, and ranks in the top five for more than a dozen other minerals and metals. Canada is number one in the world in terms of exploration expenditures and continues to open up new opportunities, as evidenced by Canada’s emergence as a major force in world diamond production.

The abundance and diversity of Canada’s energy resources provide Canadians with secure and reliable sources of energy. As a net exporter of all forms of energy, Canada makes a significant contribution to global energy security and diversity. Canada is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity, the third largest producer of natural gas, and our Western Sedimentary Basin has oil sands reserves exceeding 300 billion barrels. Our nuclear power industry operates reactors in Canada, fuelled by domestic uranium, and exports its technology around the world. Canada recognizes the importance of energy efficiency, and research and development of renewable and alternative energy sources for a sustainable future.

Natural Resources Sectors' Contributions to GDP, 2002

The importance of natural resources to Canada’s society and economy have placed the natural resource sectors at the centre of the sustainable development debate. Canada has taken up the challenge of demonstrating how commitment to stewardship, knowledge, innovation, and capacity building make it possible to diminish adverse environmental impacts from resource development and use, while building world-leading industries and strong, sustainable communities. How well Canada manages to advance the integration of social, economic and environmental considerations into decision making that respects the interests of all stakeholders will impact our ability to realize the tremendous growth potential of our resource industries.

The Canadian resource sectors include some remarkable firms that have demonstrated global leadership on sustainable development within the private sector. This strong corporate leadership is helping to spread the commitment to sustainable development within the resource and allied industries generally, as more companies come to understand and accept the business case for SD. Canadian government and industry will continue to work together to ensure the growth of globally competitive industries that are socially and ecologically responsible, contributing to our nation’s prosperity and maintaining Canada’s status as a world leader both in the evolution of our natural resources industries and in advancing sustainable development.

Canada’s resources contribute to the well-being of countless users in many countries around the world through a wide variety of applications. As a respected steward of these indispensable resources, Canada recognizes its global responsibility to ensure their sustainable development, for the benefit of all citizens, both now and for the future. The decisions that are made today about how we produce, consume and trade our forest, mineral, and energy resources, will affect our economy and communities, demonstrate our responsibility to the environment and future generations, and help define us as a society.


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