Census of Environment: A roadmap to environmental and economic sustainability

Overview

Canadians are increasingly concerned about the economic, social and health risks to their communities as a result of climate changes. These changes are reflected in our nation’s ecosystems—the areas where living things (plants, animals) and non-living things (rocks, water) function as a unit to make up a community of life. A few examples of ecosystems in Canada are lakes, forests and prairies.

Cataloguing all the ecosystems in Canada is an important step in helping Canadians make evidence-based decisions to protect, rehabilitate, enhance and sustain our environment. While policymakers currently have access to a wealth of economic and socio-economic information when making critical decisions, it is much more difficult to obtain the full picture on Canada’s ecosystems and their benefits. The Census of Environment will provide that critical 'missing piece.'

At the foundation of the Census of Environment (CoE) will be the first-ever national register of Canada's ecosystems. It is designed to help track the size and condition of ecosystems such as wetlands, coastal areas and urban forests over time. The CoE will also highlight the services these ecosystems provide (for example, clean air, food, recreation) and how they benefit human well-being and the economy.

The CoE will support government efforts to address the impacts of climate change.

Objectives

The overarching objective of the Census of Environment is to deliver a full picture of the complex relationship between ecosystems and the economy, society, and human health in one easily accessible location.

This will in turn:

  • allow all levels of government to develop policies and legislation that support healthy ecosystems and preserve natural capital
  • serve to inform planning by cities and municipalities
  • support decision-makers in key economic sectors including industry and agriculture
  • assist individual Canadians in their understanding and decision-making

The CoE will provide the statistical and spatial framework necessary to help track our performance towards meeting international goals to protect the planet and achieve a more sustainable future.

Planned evolution of the CoE

Over the next few years, the Census of Environment will deliver a comprehensive picture of Canada's ecosystems—starting with the extent of different types of ecosystems, measures of their condition, and ending with an analysis of the contributions these areas make to the economy and society.

The CoE will include these components:

Collection and integration of data

Statistics Canada is working closely with Environment and Climate Change Canada (the co-sponsor of the CoE) to find and use sources of data on ecosystems.

Initially, these sources of information will include publicly available earth observation and environmental monitoring datasets from other government departments (including Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada) as well as other key partners and organizations. Many of these datasets are currently being integrated, and will be made available over time through an interactive portal.

Access to regional data

Providing access to regional and detailed information is the key to understanding Canada's ecosystems. While maintaining data quality standards, the Census of Environment will allow Canadians to take that closer look through regional profiles and geospatial tools.

International standards, governance and engagement

The Census of Environment will organize data on ecosystems based on an internationally-accepted ecosystem accounting standard so that outside researchers can use this data for their own work. We will maintain high standards of data governance and collaborate and engage with partners and stakeholders (such as academics, environmental non-governmental organizations and Indigenous communities and organizations) to respond to policy needs.

The CoE will gather information on the extent of ecosystems, report on their condition, and identify the flows of ecosystem services and who benefits from them. For example:

International standards, governance and engagement

Description - Example of ecosystem accounts for urban areas
  • Extent of ecosystems
    • Urban areas
  • Condition of ecosystems
    • Urban tree canopy
    • Air quality
    • Imperviousness
  • Supply and use of ecosystem services
    • Heat island mitigation
    • Air filtration
    • Recreation
  • Benefits
    • Reduction in hospital visits related to respiratory conditions
    • Reduced deaths during heat waves (mortality reduction)
  • Beneficiaries
    • Community residents
  • Products
    • Tables
    • Regional profiles
    • Interactive geospatial tools
    • Analytical articles

Publications

Human Activity and the Environment (HAE)

Human Activity and the Environment

HAE 2021: Accounting for ecosystem change in Canada provides an initial assessment of the latest statistics on the extent and condition of Canada's ecosystems, as well as estimates of the supply and use of selected ecosystem services. The CoE will build and expand on this work.

EnviroStats: Urban greenness, 2001, 2011 and 2019

EnviroStats: Urban greenness, 2001, 2011 and 2019

EnviroStats: Urban greenness, 2001, 2011 and 2019 reflects the presence and health of vegetation in urban areas as a measure of urban ecosystem condition

Canadian System of Environmental-Economic Accounts - Ecosystem Accounts

Environmental-Economic Accounting - thumbnail

Canadian System of Environmental-Economic Accounts - Ecosystem Accounts are a structured compilation of information on ecosystem assets that include, for example, forests, agricultural areas, wetlands and other ecosystem types

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