Good morning, everyone.
I want to welcome our witnesses today, starting with World Future Council's Catherine Pearce. She is here from London to join us in the room today.
We have three others who are in video conference with us and I would like to introduce them now.
We have Peter Davies, who was the Wales commissioner for sustainable futures and is currently the chair of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action. He's on video conference from London with us. With him, we have Malini Mehra. Welcome.
We also have on video conference from Victoria, Thomas Gunton from the school of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University. It's nice to see you, and thank you for being with us today.
From Berlin we have the German Council for Sustainable Development. Günther Bachmann is the general secretary. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Just to give a little bit of procedure, we have witness statements and then we are going to go into questioning. I will let you know when you have one minute left in your speech, so that you don't go over your 10 minutes.
When it comes to questioning I will let everyone know when we're at one minute, so that people know that it needs to end. I will allow a very short going over, but I will let you know when the time is up. Then please finish up your sentence and then we will stop.
We're going to start off the statements with Catherine Pearce, future justice director. She's here with us today.
Madam Chair, honourable members, it is a pleasure and an honour to have this opportunity to give my views on Canada's Federal Sustainable Development Act.
I'm here today speaking on behalf of the World Future Council, an organization founded in 2007, which endeavours to bring the interests of future generations to the heart of policy-making. We identify and research exemplary policies and work with decision makers and legislators to spread these tried and tested solutions in order to ensure a sustainable future for all. The World Future Council advocates a vision of future justice—common sense, interconnected policy solutions that will benefit society as a whole and provide high quality of life for generations to come.
I'd like to introduce three main observations before this committee.
Let me first turn to the nature of what is understood by the term sustainable development. Its fundament rests on a commitment to equity with future generations. The Brundtland commission report offers one of the original and most widely used definitions of sustainable development. It underlines that the only acceptable form of social and economic development is one that ensures future generations at least as much resources and environmental quality as the present generations enjoy.
The Federal Sustainable Development Act assumes the same definition, yet the concept of sustainable development has had decreasing traction in policy-making over recent years. It has been diluted to such an extent that it no longer holds much meaning, often to the detriment of its original purpose. Sustainable development has been siloed into a purely environmental box. It is no longer seen to transcend disciplines nor to balance with economic priorities; nor does it offer the radical framing of change that is required if we are to meet some complex and unprecedented challenges of our time. Furthermore, to the general public the term sustainable development holds little resonance.
Experience in Wales shows a helpful reframing of the debate. My co-witness today, Mr. Peter Davies, former commissioner for sustainable futures in Wales, can I'm sure help to elaborate. The process of changing the title of their legislation from “sustainable development” to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act offers an interesting context for the committee members.
The legal duty to promote sustainable development remains at the heart of the Welsh well-being act. However, in order for the act to be better understood, more engaging, and therefore better implemented by all, the well-being of future generations was used to frame it. In doing so, the legislation transcends and overcomes the silo, one-dimensional approach. By framing the legislation in terms of well-being, it incorporates health, free time, public space, equality, cultural heritage, and many other integral elements that are often overlooked. It engages across the policy-making sphere.
The Welsh legislation also helps bring to life the global sustainable development goals and brings them closer to a reality of implementation. Because of their universality, the Government of Canada is also expected to implement all 17 goals by 2030. The breadth and interconnected nature of the goals offer a truly transformational agenda, one that cannot remain within the environment silo, marginalized as only an environmental priority.
This would therefore lead to the conclusion that the work and outputs of the Federal Sustainable Development Act cannot be confined to only an environment department or committee, but rather must engage the heart and centre of government.
My second observation turns to applying intergenerational equity, which can help to bring new meaning to the true concept of sustainable development, as the experience from Wales and elsewhere has shown. Despite best intentions, the interests of the here and now often take precedence over future interests, driven by the short-termism of election cycles. Short-term business cycles driven by quarterly earnings reports aggravate the pressure for immediate rather than long-term returns on investment.
The theory of intergenerational equity has a deep basis in international law. Professor Edith Brown Weiss of Georgetown University is one of the leading authorities. She established three principles of intergenerational equity: conservation of options, conservation of quality, and conservation of access for future generations.
These require that we understand the fundamental entitlement among generations correctly, so that we recognize that future generations have an equal claim with the present generation to use and benefit from the natural environment. Once we recognize this equality of entitlement among generations, economic instruments such as discount rates, the use of new indicators, and many other tools can be developed to achieve intergenerational equity efficiently.
Yet future generations are not effectively represented in the marketplace today. By their absence, they are simply without a voice, which leads me to my third and final point on advocacy for future generations.
To secure sustained human environmental well-being, commissioners or guardians for future generations have been shown to help introduce a long-term perspective into policy-making, linking citizens with governments, working as a catalyst for sustainable development implementation, and acting as principal advocates for common interests of present and future generations.
Existing commissioners or guardians for future generations at regional and national levels around the world have been formally recognized by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon in his 2013 report “Intergenerational solidarity and the needs of future generations”. It's also worth noting at this point that the report sets out a recommendation for a high commissioner for future generations at the international level, which has received significant support from many governments.
Commissioners for future generations are an innovative approach to implementing sustainable development. These independent bodies are dedicated to enhancing governance frameworks and processing, filling institutional gaps by actively advocating for long-term interests, and helping to promote and implement intergenerational justice. Through offering advice and recommendations, and building capacity, such institutions have proven very effective in overcoming short-termism and alleviating the policy incoherence plaguing the decisions of today.
The UN report identifies eight national institutions either present or previous. These include Canada's commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, as well as offices in Finland, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, and Wales. For the latter, a statutory commissioner for future generations has been introduced as part of the legislation I have just mentioned.
It's important to note that these institutions are all different, reflecting domestic political makeup and context. All of them enjoy different levels of independence and powers. However, they all attempt to break new ground in interpreting sustainable development to the governments they work with and to a public audience, especially since all of them hold very strong connections with civil society while working alongside their parliamentary colleagues.
While we recognize that no one size fits all, in recognizing the contribution of these offices, the World Future Council defines six criteria in order to achieve successful impact. These include being independent and impartial, being proficient in terms of having a multidisciplinary staff, being transparent, being legitimate by democratic standards, being widely accessible to external assessments and citizens' concerns, and giving full access to all relevant information.
The role of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development here in Canada matches well with our criteria. However, a review of the act should also consider strengthening the role and mandate of the commissioner. There are many means to do this that this committee should consider. If I may, I'd like to offer some initial suggestions.
It may be helpful to remind the committee that the Auditor General Act, which alongside the Federal Sustainable Development Act governs the role of the commissioner, already recognizes the needs of future generations as being part of the commissioner's considerations. This offers a more explicitly long-term perspective within the commissioner's mandate. It could be brought out more fully in the commissioner's day-to-day functions, and this would help to better support the underlying essence of the Sustainable Development Act and to better reflect the overall impact and coherence of this important legislation that reaches beyond just the environment.
Another means may be through providing greater resources to ensure key recommendations are actually followed up. Another may be providing an unbiased forum to gather evidence and input from third parties in order to offer coherent policy recommendations that visualize and interpret long-lasting sustainability for all.
With that, I bring my comments to a close.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work of the committee and to draw on our experience in Wales. We've had a devolved government in the UK since 1999, and sustainable development was established as a core principle of the Government of Wales Act 1998.
What I'm going to share with you is our experience over the last 17 years or so of trying to promote sustainable development in all our policies. That was the requirement of the Government of Wales Act as it was established in 1998. The evidence of our experience of implementing this duty, though, was very mixed. It was a fact that was highlighted by the Wales Audit Office, by independent evaluations, and by each of my independent annual reviews of performance across Welsh government. There were consistent criticisms of a lack of consistency, a lack of understanding of the concept of sustainable development, and a superficial approach to its implementation across government, with individual departments taking their own approaches and delivering effectively, sometimes, but always in silo operations as opposed to joined-up delivery across government.
There were significant weaknesses in our experience in delivering sustainable development, not least being the fact that the Government of Wales Act only applied to government and did not apply to the rest of the public sector in Wales. This led to the proposals in the manifesto of the Labour Party, which became the current government in 2012, to introduce a stronger and very much more specific legislation during its term of office. It was termed at that point the sustainable development bill. We had a four-year journey involving discussion papers and green papers. We had four different ministers lead the process of creating the legislation. We had a change of department lead. It began in the environment department, and it moved to be led by the social justice department. We had a change in the name of the legislation, as Catherine has mentioned already.
The minister at the time—I remember well—said that sustainable development doesn't mean anything to Mrs. Jones in Merthyr. We need to make a piece of legislation mean something to real people. She cares about her children and her grandchildren and the future generation, so let's use that as the basis for the legislation. It became known as the future generations bill and eventually became the well-being of future generations bill and now the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
It was influenced and shaped by a national conversation on “The Wales We Want”, which linked very much to the UN global conversation on “The World We Want“. I led that in my role as commissioner for sustainable futures. It helped to engage the wider community in designing and helping to shape the nature of the legislation. The legislation itself went through an intensive scrutiny and amendment process before the bill was passed by the National Assembly for Wales on March 17 last year, received royal assent on April 30 last year as the Well-being of Future Generations Act, and became law on April 1 this year. The legislation has been designed to align directly with the United Nations sustainable development goals, and indeed, it puts a specific requirement on the government to take into account the United Nations sustainable development goals.
The act itself sets very clearly what we mean by sustainable development. It sets out seven national goals that we want to achieve for “The Wales We Want”: a prosperous Wales, a more resilient Wales, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales of cohesive communities, a Wales with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, and importantly, a globally responsible Wales. Those national goals are underpinned by a set of national measures of progress, a set of indicators, which the government consulted on and issued earlier this year—in fact, in March of this year.
We have a set of national goals underpinned by national indicators, and a requirement and a duty on all public bodies under the legislation to demonstrate their contribution to the achievement of these goals and their contribution to the improvement of performance against each of those indicators.
The act does set out very clearly the sustainable development principle in terms that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It tries to make that more practical by setting out our long-term purpose, a clear set of indicators, and critically, a set of operating principles in terms of how we do business in Wales. There are five operating principles that each public body is required to apply in its decision-making: focusing on preventative action, collaboration, integration, the involvement of people and communities in decision-making, and ensuring that decision-making is done in the interests of the long term.
The legislation sets out a clear long-term development path, measures of progress, and common working principles for how we do business in Wales and how the public sector operates. Ministers have begun to apply this act in preparation for its becoming law, in terms of how we set our budgets, how we procure, and how we invest in improving our health, environment, and economy. It will provide a framework for how the government operates and how we do business.
It also sets out a requirement for public bodies at a local level to come together to form public service boards, which can collaborate more effectively to provide integrated solutions to some of those more difficult long-term problems that we face in tackling poverty, inequalities, and climate change, and in improving biodiversity. There are common objectives now across those public bodies and a requirement for them to operate collaboratively at the local level.
We want to ensure that future generations are given the best possible start in life. I think that's a key point in the implementation of this legislation, in the sense of the importance of early years for the long term and the future generations. We have a scheme that is a sort of iconic scheme and is symbolic, I guess, in that we plant a tree in Wales and in Africa for every child born. It's an iconic, symbolic statement of the importance of future generations and our commitment to the environment.
The seventh goal that I've mentioned, a globally responsible Wales, is particularly important in terms of how the act is being implemented.
Obviously, alongside the act, we have very strong commitments to climate change and to the reduction of carbon emissions. Core to the implementation of the act as we go forward will be evidence of how government spends its money in terms of procurements and how it provides grants and support to business and to the third and voluntary sector, to ensure that all government money is spent in alignment with the principles of the act. I want to also highlight that we have a voluntary commitment or code of practice called a “sustainable development charter” for the business community to make their commitment to achieve the same goals and apply the same principles that the public sector has.
I want to end by introducing my successor. I've stepped out of my role, which I've played for the last 10 years and which was a non-statutory role. My successor, the future generations commissioner for Wales, has been appointed. She's taken up the post on April 1 in a new role established under the act. She has statutory powers and duties to ensure that the intent of the legislation is being applied in practice. The Wales Audit Office also now has powers and duties to ensure that the act is being applied in practice. There's a very close relationship between the new commissioner and the Wales Audit Office.
The new commissioner and the shape of that office have been influenced by the advice of the World Future Council. You've heard from Catherine on that today. It's an independent body providing a voice for future generations, holding ministers and the public bodies to account in terms of the delivery of the act.
I'm delighted to say that, when the bill became an act back in April of last year, we were able to host a gathering in Cardiff, which included representation from the United Nations, but also representation from your own commissioner. We were delighted to host Julie Gelfand here in Cardiff. I know Julie knows some of this experience in Wales, and I hope my presentation today has given you some context and some learning that might be applied to your work in Canada.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Good morning to you and to other members of the committee. Thank you very much for this opportunity to appear before you.
My name is Malini Mehra. I am the chief executive of GLOBE International, which is the world's largest network of national legislators devoted to legislative leadership on climate change and sustainable development. I am, however, speaking today in a personal capacity, drawing on almost three decades of experience in working on sustainable development in different sectors and in different countries, including my home country of India.
Having worked in the NGO community and inside the United Nations, as well as at the heart of central government in the U.K. and at the top of global companies on these issues—and now with legislative leaders from around the world—I would like to offer a perspective that cuts across traditional silos and perhaps brings some new facts and exciting trends to the attention of your review process.
This is the third time that the Federal Sustainable Development Act of 2008 has been reviewed. I presume that the object of the exercise is to assess whether it is still fit for purpose, or whether certain aspects, such as existing priorities or institutional arrangements, need to be revisited.
I assume the review process is also an important opportunity to reconnect with the public on these issues, like a renewal of one's marriage vows, reaffirming the fundamental social contract between the government and the people to secure sustainable development through democratic engagement for the benefit of current and future generations.
This fitness for purpose and democratic engagement for effective implementation are core themes that I'd like to address. I believe that your review process of the Federal Sustainable Development Act offers an excellent opportunity to modernize the approach and practice of governance for sustainable development to make it more fit for purpose in the post-2015 world.
I submit that modernization for the post-2015 world, with greater democratic engagement and accountability, should be an approach for this committee to consider. I do so for the following three reasons.
Firstly, we now have more than a generation of experience of “doing” sustainable development, from Local Agenda 21 to full-blown sustainable development acts and frameworks across countries. We have a good idea of what works and what doesn't, and it's time to learn from these lessons and apply them. You've just heard from Peter Davies an excellent example of lessons learned and applied in Wales.
Secondly, last year changed everything. Not only was 2015 the hottest year on record, it also represented an unprecedented coming together of a host of UN summits on disaster risk management, gender equality, finance for development, sustainable development goals, and of course, climate change. All these set a very clear agenda for 2030, but the flight path will have to be set by governments.
In Sendai, Addis, New York, and Paris, the world's governments adopted new global agreements that will set the course of government policy for the next 15 years. This is not a pick-and-mix approach. The 2015 summits require a holistic whole-of-government mindset and will require changes to governance. At GLOBE International, we are promoting an integrated approach to the implementation of the 2015 agreements, which we term “the convergence and coherence approach”.
Thirdly and finally, two important new trends are present and visible: firstly, an increased role of non-state actors in public mobilization and in solution design and delivery, including through coalitions; and secondly, greater transparency and disclosure, including through big data releases—we've seen some of those recently—and social media.
These trends are resetting norms around public specialist discourse and expectation on these issues. For example, the Paris agreement was a very atypical, very modern piece of international diplomacy and policy-making, bringing in non-state actors for the first time. There are now more than 4,000 registered commitments on climate action from companies, cities, subnational regions, and investors that will make gigatonnes of difference to global greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Could this be one of the game-changers that helps us to keep global emissions below the much tougher 1.5 degree Celsius goal set by the Paris agreement?
Chair, this is the new modern context of politics and policy-making. How will governments and this committee respond to this challenge? That is the question.
Thank you. Those are my opening remarks. I look to more detail in the discussion to follow.
Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process.
I'd like to begin by briefly summarizing our own experience in sustainable development research at Simon Fraser University.
For the last several decades we have been examining sustainable development practices in most of the countries in the world, and we've looked at policy achievements in other areas. Based on this and my own personal experience as a deputy minister of environment, we have developed a list of best practices for sustainable development. We've grouped these under eight principles and about 45 different indicators. I'm obviously not going to summarize them, but it would be useful to briefly summarize the eight principles.
The first is the development of goals, objectives, and targets that are measurable, effective, and cover the short, medium, and long terms. The second is the development of what we call “effective strategies” that clearly document how the strategies will meet the targets. Third is the the integration of the environment, the economy, and the social into the various elements of sustainable development. The fourth is to ensure that accountability is allocated to the highest level of decision-making in cabinet and the civil service. The fifth is the importance of monitoring and forecasting trends to determine the degree to which the various targets are being met or not met. The sixth is to require an obligatory adaptive management process whereby strategies are revised if and when they're not meeting the targets. The seventh is to ensure collaborative engagement of the public and key stakeholders in the development and management of the strategy. Finally, the eighth principle is to enshrine all of this into legislation.
As part of our research, we were asked by the David Suzuki Foundation to develop a draft sustainable development act, which we did, and that became the basis for the Federal Sustainable Development Act of 2008. In our view, this has been a major achievement that Canada should be proud of, but a number of significant deficiencies remain. Many of these deficiencies are related to what was left out of the final legislation, which we had incorporated or recommended in the earlier drafting.
The first deficiency relates to the setting of targets. We do have a legal obligation to set targets, but the problem is that the target-setting requirements do not require setting targets that cover all of the different components of sustainable development and the setting of short-, medium-, and long-term targets. What's the result of that? As the former commissioner of the environment and sustainable development concluded in his research, only six of 34 sustainable development strategies in the 2013 plan had effective targets. Our review of the 2016 draft sustainable development strategy comes to a similar conclusion, which is that there is simply a lack of measurable targets.
The second deficiency is that while there's a requirement to prepare a strategy, there is no requirement to document clearly and quantitatively how the strategies or actions will achieve the targets that are intended. We reviewed all of the federal policies, including the 2016 proposed sustainable development strategy, and we could not find one example of a strategy area where analysis was done to show how a strategy would effectively meet the targets. Even in the high-priority area of climate change, we have lists of actions and initiatives, but there is no analysis anywhere that documents how these various actions will achieve the desired greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The third deficiency is that the responsibility for sustainable development resides in a unit within a department under a director general level, as opposed to being in a central agency and reporting to either cabinet committee or high-level decision makers. While the staff can be congratulated for the great work they do, unless they are integrated into leadership at higher levels they're not going to be successful.
The fourth deficiency is that there is no obligation in the act that requires revising strategies and actions if and when it becomes clear they are not meeting their objectives. We have known for some time that we will not meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets. Both independent studies and studies done by the government have shown this, yet we have seen no requirement and no effort to revise the strategies to deal with the shortfall.
We also found features of the act that we think are working relatively well. I think the monitoring and public reporting undertaken by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development process and the progress reports by the federal government are doing a relatively good job. I think there have been great efforts in engaging the public in the development of plans, but clearly there are deficiencies in the act that overwhelm these particular strengths.
Now, it's possible to reform the act to address all of these deficiencies. In our own research we have examined the experience in such countries as Germany—it's very nice to have a representative here today from that country—that have implemented all of these best practices in a very effective way. Germany, according to our research, has one of the best records in terms of environmental performance. It's near the top. Canada, unfortunately, is near the bottom in terms of environmental performance.
Let me conclude by noting that we have made remarkable progress, but there are clearly deficiencies that we need to address. Specifically, we need to revise the legislation to, one, require the setting of short-, medium-, and long-term goals and targets that cover all of the different dimensions of sustainable development; two, require the development of strategies that will clearly document how these targets will be met; three, have a requirement that the strategies need to be revised, an obligatory revision of strategies if and when they're not achieving their objectives; and four, elevate responsibility for sustainable development to a central agency that reports to either a senior cabinet committee or through the PMO.
With these changes, I think we will have a much higher likelihood of success in achieving our sustainable development goals.
Thank you very much, Ms. Chair. Thanks for the nice introduction of Germany so far.
What I can offer you is a practitioner's view of what we are doing here in Germany. I've been in the position of general secretary for the German Council for Sustainable Development since 2001, when all this started.
As a preliminary remark, I would like to share with you the notion that we in Germany find that the structure we have, with the institutions we have in place, is an okay structure. It is operational. It works. But I have to say that after we tried everything else, we kind of meandered our way into what we now have. We learned through the efforts and the tries in the nineties. We tried departmental approaches. They all failed. We tried approaches via Parliament that failed. We tried approaches via cities' involvement and only local agenda politics. They failed.
But now, I have to say, no institution or institutionalization is forever. That is why we are currently thinking about how to advance what we have in place in Germany. This is what I want to talk about for a couple of minutes.
First, institutions in a country follow purpose. We decided to keep with the term “sustainability”, to fill it and not discard it. There are problems with the vagueness of this term, of course, but then, with a substantive and ambitious national strategy for sustainable development, there's a kind of refreshment every other year of the term of sustainable development. It gets the notion to the people. People understand it. We see from polls that now almost 80% of the German population understands the term “sustainable development”. When we started out in 2001, it was 13%.
We decided to keep the term broad and to bring in environment, of course, most importantly, but also issues from the sides of social inclusion, social development of society, and the green economy. Once we're talking about sustainability, we are talking about energy, about resources, about housing problems, about gender, food, and health, and also about demography and inclusion in Germany. We are talking about budget issues, tax breaks, and the financial resources we will devote to innovation and research and development.
For all this, we think we need a high-level commitment in government. We need a central responsibility to ensure that this in our institutional set-up. It's like with the private sector; you need the involvement of the CEO. Otherwise, you'll get nothing at the end of the day. But once you have the CEO and the top level of government involved, then you have to ensure a bottom-up element to bring in people's voices. There is a coordination and coherence issue.
With all this at hand, we worked our way through the German institutions; I will explain which ones they are. Over the last 15 years, through five governments in four different colours, we kept the notion of sustainability on the highest level. I have to say that we did not compromise the environment through the issues from the economic or social side.
Now what we have in place is a mechanism on the government side, the so-called state secretaries for sustainable development. They meet every other week, chaired by the chief of staff of the German Chancellery. In our system it's the federal minister in the Chancellery, so one step behind Ms. Merkel.
We have had the German Council for Sustainable Development since 2001. The task of the council is to advise the federal government. At the top level is Ms. Merkel, as the prime minister. At that time it was Gerhard Schröder from the Social Democrats.
We are also advising the departments; we can do this as well. The chancellor appoints the members of the council in their personal capacity, so not by delegation from banks—the social bank, the economic bank, or the ecological bank—but in their personal capacity. We report back to the.... I report back to the chancellor. I have a seat in the state secretaries committee to close the gap between these two institutions. We are tasked with agenda-setting, and we can also do our own projects out of our own right. For this purpose we have a staff of 12 now. We have some budget, now around four million euros annually.
Third, we have a parliamentary advisory commission to the Parliament. They are tasked with the legal impact assessment of pieces of legislation, and they are as close as you can come in the German system to the institution of the ombudsman for future generations.
All these three institutions are light institutions—light because they have to be re-established every three years or every legislative term. They did not start their work with a kind of scientific design or a design by some politicians, but they started work as a step-by-step development of the portfolio piece with the institutions all centring around the issue of the sustainable development strategy.
This strategy comes with goals and targets. The indicators are independently monitored by the statistical office of Germany, and then there are written comments on the fact-finding, on the number-crunching, by the statisticians.
We have management rules in place, giving the departments some advice on how to develop their politics toward the goals of the national SD strategy. There are also some soft instruments here in play. As for the German council, we ourselves issue the German sustainable development codex, a code for companies, be they private or publicly run. For the company performance code and the transparency code we have the German sustainability award. It's a high-level, kind of an Oscar-type ceremony that awards enterprises and cities with the German sustainability award.
We have a review system in place. Already twice we have reviewed our government's system with the help of international experts. In the first review, in 2009, there was also a Canadian from your foreign ministry involved, and thanks for that.
Still, with the sustainability development goals already mentioned, the global goals already mentioned, we will have to redesign the national approach and we do so in this year. By the end of the year, we will have a relaunched national strategy, which follows the idea of the triple, the triple being the impact of the global goals for Germany. It says, first, that there are problems within Germany and we have to take care that we do the right thing here. Second, there are issues to be tackled through the German competencies, in industry or in the cities, that will help others in the world to solve their problems. Third, the help from Germany to developing countries will be increased financially.
To wrap it up, as I told you, nothing is finalized. We are currently thinking about how to better anchor the issue of sustainability in our constitution. We are thinking, together with our parliament, about ways and means to add it to the German constitution and to anchor the sustainability issue there.
Secondly, we're on our way to developing an outreach towards the regions in Germany, which is a federal country, and our parliament has provided me with some serious money to establish four regional hubs as kinds of reference centres to the work of the German Council for Sustainable Development.
Lastly, we are increasing coordination efforts within government by addressing certain sustainable development issues in so-called sectoral strategies that will follow on the overall comprehensive SD strategy that is run by the government itself.
Thank you for your attention.
Except in this particular case, the notion of creating wealth was marginalized by every speaker and wasn't mentioned at all.
But let me just carry this further. An economist named Kuznets created what he called the Kuznets curve. He looked at environmental indicators in relation to the wealth of a country. The best example is sulphur dioxide. In the United States the process was that, as it industrialized, SO2 emissions went up dramatically, and the country got richer, but at some point in the 1970s, SO2 emissions went down dramatically, and the country kept getting richer. There is a very clear relationship—and in the modern world there is a very clear relationship—to free market capitalistic societies and their positive environmental performance. I wrote a piece a while ago, a kind of tongue-in-cheek one, saying that if you want to save the environment, you have to get rich.
So I go back to the question. First and foremost, creating wealth in a society should be front and centre. Given the financial situation in Greece, for example, because of excess government spending, are they going to be concerned about environmental quality at this particular point? Again, I go back to the question about the centrality of wealth creation via free market democracies as a way to improve the environment. It's an absolute prerequisite to environmental improvement.
Thank you, Mr. Bossio, for indulging that. I just want to follow up on that same line of questioning by Mr. Sopuck.
I would tend to disagree that wealth creation is a prerequisite. I would almost suggest that in order to be sustainable, all elements of sustainability need to be looked at as prerequisites.
For example, when I was the mayor of Kingston, when industry was trying to set up in our community, they weren't particularly looking for the community that had the lowest taxes in order to create the most wealth. They were looking for the communities that had the best quality of life because they knew they could retain human capital there, and individuals who would be interested in living in that community would then end up benefiting the economic interests of the industry because they would retain that high calibre of individual.
I'm curious if you would like to just expand a little bit on how you see that balance. I've always defined sustainability as a balance between economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors with the understanding that they all have to operate together at the same time in order to be prosperous.
Ms. Pearce, would you like to comment on that?
Thank you very much for your question and your comment. I would very much agree with that.
I think one of the difficulties we're experiencing—and this is common across many different parts of the world, which is why we're here today—is that when we look at sustainability, it is often only considered in terms of the environmental aspect. I think that is one of the downfalls we're challenged by here, in that sustainability is siloed and often marginalized, with the concern that the economic concerns are prioritized and far outweigh our efforts in terms of safeguarding natural resources, for example.
The other aspect you mentioned is, of course, culture. That too is often overlooked very much, to the detriment of societies and to the detriment of improving our economic wealth. We may want to look at that concern too.
How do we reframe this debate? Your outlook is very broad in terms of how you consider sustainable development, and that is a classic kind of definition. But for most people, when we mention “sustainable development” or “sustainability”, eyes glaze over and the interest is just not there. Do we need to challenge the debate in terms of reframing it if we are to overcome some of the challenges we face?
On the question of a central agency, you need to elevate sustainable development into a central function as opposed to being done largely within a branch within a particular ministry.
Really, the key is the need to set clear targets. We prepared the draft legislation that would form the basis for the Federal Sustainable Development Act. There were some elements in our draft which were left out in the act that was passed. I think you should have a look at those.
First, we suggested that there would be a requirement to develop targets for every dimension of sustainable development, including the economy. I want to address that it does need integration with the economy; that those targets would be set in the regulations covering the areas of sustainable development, short, medium, and long term; and that there is a capacity to set the regulations. But they were never set.
Second, there was a requirement for monitoring the progress and forecasting the degree to which those targets are going to be met, which we recommended. That was partly done but not fully done. You need to monitor and forecast to see whether you are meeting the objectives.
Third, there was a requirement we suggested that you had to respond if the targets were not being met. You had to respond as to why and come up with an alternative strategy or revisions to the strategy to show how they would be changed to ensure you got back on track, in the short, medium, and long term.
Those are some of the key provisions that were in the original draft we prepared back around 2005-06.
I would just comment from the U.K. government's experience, and working as a practitioner within the government on the sustainable development strategy. I was very interested to go through the testimony of your last hearing and hear from the commissioner that she did not have enforcement powers.
It is very important to distinguish between a body that is a watchdog that monitors and a body that actually is able to exercise compliance through enforcement. The two need not be the same. It was not the case in the U.K. government, where for five years we had a strategy, “Securing the future”, the sustainable development strategy by the former Labour government, which was then thrown out by the coalition government. It had a very brief lifetime.
There was an independent watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission, on which Peter was one of the commissioners, which was also abolished. The purpose of the Sustainable Development Commission was to monitor but to be a good friend of government. The requirement to ensure compliance with government directives lay with the departments.
There has been a debate in the U.K. government, including through inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee, as to whether there needs formally to be a compliance mechanism and whether the strategy needs to be locked into either the Treasury or in the Cabinet Office, because Treasury is able to enforce and perform sanctions to errant departments. Fundamentally, this is about the management task at the front end, and then later on a political task.
I've served for many years in very large multinationals, which have extremely effective sustainable development strategies. Ten years, working with Unilever on the Unilever sustainable development strategy, it was very clear. We have annual reviews. We have regular reviews. We are constantly looking at and revising our targets. We are resetting and people are held to account. If they're being held to account in a company, why should we not expect people, managers, to be held to account in a government department?
Thank you, Madam Chair. I really appreciate the interesting discussion today. It's probably one of the first times I felt like I was hearing a lot of things in this committee that made more sense, and the discussion has been excellent. I really appreciate the witnesses.
Peter, there are some things you said that resonated with me a little bit. You talked about a lot of local decision-making. I can remember a long time ago, as a mayor, when people would propose certain things I said, “Is there community buy-in for this? Are you proposing something that is your idea or is there community support, because if you don't have community support we're going down the wrong road?” I think you've alluded to that.
When you get to enforcement, it's the same kinds of arguments. Is this something for which we have people who will really enforce it? I can remember when there used to be a $1,000 fine in my province for littering. Nobody ever got that fine because nobody was ever going to give that ticket. If they dropped it to $100, they gave a lot of tickets.
It's a really interesting process you're talking about when you talk about local decisions. We had a premier who, forever, used to say in our province to his MLAs when they would bring up things, “Have you talked to Martha and Henry? Go talk to Martha and Henry at their house and find out what they think before you propose something to implement and to enforce.”
Peter, could you talk a little bit more about local decision-making and how important that is to your process?
It is absolutely critical. As I mentioned, we went through “The Wales We Want” process, which was a 12-month process of engaging communities, businesses, and individuals around Wales in helping to inform and shape the act.
Some of our experience has been that we've had too much of a top-down approach, and we needed more of a bottom-up approach, and it's really important to get that balance.
It's really important, though, also to ensure that you have an informed approach so that people understand. One of the requirements of the new legislation is to produce a future trends report and to continue this national conversation, so that people understand what are the future trends, why it's so important to undertake some action. You really need that dialogue and that engagement to be a two-way process between information and knowledge about future trends, and allowing people to make more decisions at the local level.
From our experience, the greatest progress we've made is when we've been able to allow communities to mobilize, take action, and shape their own future. As part of “The Wales We Want”, we had communities take up that and say, okay, this is about the community that we want in our local area, and shape that for their future, understanding the priorities, the issues of climate change, and the need for jobs for young people, but really for communities to take greater ownership.
It doesn't work if it's simply a top-down process. It has to be owned and understood and involve people. That's why one of the core principles of the bill is involvement, the involvement of people in decision-making.
I think it's quite a complex relationship, actually.
When we talk about leadership, it's often the case that leadership can be found from the private sector just as much, if not more so than in government.
I think, in many respects, it's how governments take on this responsibility and ensure that not only is it not marginalized but it's covered across all different departments, with leadership from a key central agency at its core. There is much to learn of how the private sector, how businesses actually incorporate a sustainability approach, if you like, to ensure their performance is actually meeting and ensuring environmental targets that governments have introduced.
In many respects, there are examples around the world where corporations are actually imposing and showing leadership, and showing the way on how governments need to be taking on business, how they need to be introducing targets, and how they need to be ensuring that they have the right strategy to meet those targets.
When we talk about sustainability, it is up to all of us, isn't it? It's up to governments. It's up to business, and it's also up to the public at large. We all have a relationship to play. I think the relationship among those three different sectors is actually very key.
There are many elements, the bottom up, the grassroots level, which are really demonstrating action in this area, because they're tired of waiting for governments or private sector to take the lead. There are many examples around the world where we can actually learn from one another, and I think that relationship is quite sophisticated. There needs to be elements where we can learn from one another. We talked about lessons learned. I think this really needs to be brought out a little more.
Madam Chair, we talked a lot about legislation versus policy versus strategy. We've talked about a good plan being effective only if it's enforced. We've all shared almost the same thoughts all around the room in previous meetings and today. We also talked about strengthening the role of the commissioner, and Ms. Pearce mentioned that as well. Mike mentioned, you know, giving her some teeth. We've talked about finding ways to measure success. We've all talked about the goals, the targets, and all the indicators.
I might be off on this, but I believe, Mr. Davies, you mentioned that Wales has their plan. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I think you might have said it was enshrined in law. Can you clarify that? Are you indicating that what you have in Wales now is somewhat stronger than a policy or a strategy? Notwithstanding the fact that you said it's not a silver bullet, I like what you've done where you've come forward a year before an election and you put the onus on the politicians to have success and enforce those successes.
This is a year old now. Are you seeing any successes, any measurables that you can share with us today? A lot of what you said when you spoke for 10 minutes was very much the same thing we've talked about around this table, and the musings we've had.
Thank you to all the witnesses who showed up here today.
I'd like to dwell on a couple of things. Yes, as Ms. Gelfand said, sustainability has been part of our government for approximately 30 years, but sustainability was in this country when the first settlers came in. I remember my grandfather, who settled in this country in 1905, talked about sustainability on his quarter section. He planted a crop. The next year he summer-fallowed. He talked about trapping in the early days. He said you couldn't trap in one forest area all the time. You had to take so many animals, and then let it prosper.
Sustainability has always been here. For any individual in this room, they've had a sustainability plan in their life. For us as a government, it's a lot more complex. It's a lot easier when you're an individual and you only have yourself to be accountable for. If you're a corporation, you have a CEO who probably has a lot of clout, because he's the one who's making the decisions. Right now I see us in government with a very broad, complex country. As Mr. Shields alluded, Canada is made up of roughly 12 regions, with four forms of government, and we need to come up with a good plan to meet global expectations.
I'm going to fire a question off to Mr. Gunton. Looking at the demographics of our country, we have the provinces and the Northwest Territories and the different regions of the Northwest Territories. We have provincial governments and the federal government. We have aboriginal people we need to take into concern. One thing we must realize is that if anybody in this country knows about long-term sustainability, it's our aboriginal people, because they've lived off the land and they believe in what the land can give us.
You mentioned earlier that Canada has one of the lowest and Germany has one of the highest.... I understand that they have a fairly tight network on top in Germany. But how do you see us capturing all of Canada to come up with a very strong program?
That's a loaded question; sorry.