The purpose of this document is to provide environmental assessment (EA) practitioners with general guidance for incorporating climate change considerations in project EA. It is the result of federal, provincial and territorial collaboration, and is applicable across jurisdictions. This document provides general guidance, to be considered at the discretion of jurisdictions and regulatory authorities. It marks a unique initiative in Canada's response to climate change, and includes:
The document has been developed because:
Jurisdictions expect that the consideration of climate change in project EAs will:
Incorporating climate change considerations in EA can help to determine whether projects are consistent with jurisdictional actions and initiatives to manage GHG emissions, such as under the Climate Change Plan for Canada. It can also assist proponents in using best practices that adapt to possible climate change impacts, such as changes in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events, increases in mean temperatures or altered precipitation patterns and amounts.
Jurisdictions recognize that our understanding of climate change and its implications is still developing. Furthermore, there are currently no legal requirements or clearly sanctioned benchmarks for GHG emission reductions. Similarly, the assessment of potential climate change impacts and the identification of effective adaptation responses are new and evolving fields in which more research is required. While our understandings and policies are advancing, it is still useful that project proponents and government EA practitioners and decision makers be aware of any important climate change implications related to proposed projects. Potential risks to the project, providing they do not affect the public, public resources, the environment, other businesses or individuals, may be borne by the project proponent and are not generally a concern for jurisdictions.
Jurisdictional policies and regulations, for example the national Climate Change Plan for Canada, or Alberta's Climate Change Action Plan, should be the cornerstones of climate change related EA practice. Project EA conducted in accordance with this guidance document may include the following actions:
This guidance will evolve as climate change related science, and broader policy and action evolve. General policies on GHG emission mitigation are being put into effect in Canada. The sections of this guidance relating to GHG requirements have not yet been translated into specific requirements of emitters. Once the entity or facility requirements arising from those broader climate change policies are in place, they will constitute the GHG mitigation requirements for assessments. The consideration of climate change in environmental assessments is not intended to impose any mitigation obligations over and above the obligations that will be imposed through the implementation of the general climate change policies. Likewise, the methodology described in this document for assessing potential climate change impacts should be recognized as an initial attempt to be tested and refined as new information becomes available.
Some proposed projects may not be covered by the obligations arising from the general policies. Inclusion of climate change mitigation considerations may be appropriate for those projects. For all projects, the assessment may include the consideration of the impact of climate change on projects, where the impacts may be significant, likely and applicable.