i. Climate change context
Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories, in a federated governance system. Canada’s constitutional mandate to protect the environment lies with the provinces, with each province or territory developing its own climate change communication and education. The provinces and territories are also responsible for implementing climate policy and achieving national targets. Education is also a provincial mandate. This country profile provides information on Canada’s approach to mainstreaming climate change communication and education on a national level and gives examples on state-level initiatives only when relevant and reported by Canada in its official communications. Canada’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) gives a detailed overview of provincial climate actions in its Annex 2.
Canada has the smallest population of the Group of Seven states, at around 37 million inhabitants, yet has among the highest per capita emissions globally. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, Canada emitted 14 t CO2 per person in 2020. The 7th National Communication explains that this is due to Canada’s location in the northern half of the northern hemisphere, with long and cold winters, and a large landmass with a small population, which increases energy and transportation use. Transportation is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gases, only topped by energy.
According to the 7th National Communication, Canada is highly affected by climate change. In particular, northern regions are experiencing rapid changes. Warming leads to drought, forest fires, floods, and severe thunderstorms with increasing frequency.
Canada joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an Annex-I country. Canada initially signed the Kyoto Protocol but withdrew in 2011 and has hence not accepted the Doha Amendment. The country signed and ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016.
In 2019 Canada’s House of Commons declared a climate emergency, supported by climate emergency declarations of 644 cities and provinces at the time of this review. In 2019, the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs-in-Assembly declared a First Nations Climate Emergency.
The Indigenous peoples of Canada—the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit—are one of the country’s fastest growing population segments and also among the most vulnerable to climate change. Canada aims to include Indigenous knowledges in its climate change policies. The Government of Canada has established a special Partnership with Indigenous Peoples on Climate and supports Indigenous climate leadership. The updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) include in Annex 3 a detailed summary of Indigenous climate action. This summary describes the First Nations Climate Lens to explain the critical role of First Nations in climate debates.
Canada strongly emphasizes the inclusion of gender matters in climate debates. Canada reports in its 7th National Communication (2017) that it frequently organizes discussions at the UNFCCC to include gender. It was a key country in developing the Gender Action Plan (2019) of the UNFCCC.
ii. Relevant government agencies
The Canadian Council of the Ministers of Environment brings together the provinces’ ministries of environment. The Council works on Canada-wide standards on issues related to climate change, for example single-use plastic or emissions.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is the primary government agency responsible for climate change and is the UNFCCC Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Focal Point. The Minister of Environment is responsible for domestic and international climate change policies within the Government of Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada brings together federal, provincial, and territorial ministries to work together to address climate change.
The Environment and Climate Change Youth Council is an external body of volunteers that advises the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and Environment and Climate Change Canada. It engages youth in climate change participation processes by giving young people a voice in government decision making.
The Net-Zero Advisory Body, established in 2021 by the federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, is a group of independent experts from across Canada. They produce reports and advise the government on reaching Canada’s goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Centre for Greening Government within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat supports the Government of Canada in reaching net zero emissions and reducing the environmental impacts of its operations. The Centre works on implementing the Greening Government Strategy (2020) in government agencies across Canada.
The Canadian Centre for Climate Services supports Canada’s national, provincial, and territorial governments in decision making about climate adaptation measures. The Centre is also a resource hub, providing data and information on climate change. The Centre is supported by local centres such as CLIMAtlantic, which provides climate data to the Atlantic Provinces.
The Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience was created in 2017 to support Canada’s climate change decision making. The Panel, composed of independent experts, gives advice and, in particular, supports climate change communication in Canada. A key focus area of the Panel’s report (2018) is “translating scientific information and Indigenous knowledge into action” (p. 49).
Natural Resources Canada contributes to federal climate change policies and debates. This government agency is active in communication campaigns and focuses primarily on Canada’s natural resources and sustainable development. It also fosters public participation by opening spaces for dialogue and developing educational materials about natural resources, including climate change.
Part of Natural Resources Canada is the Office of Energy Efficiency. The Office manages activities for energy reduction and energy-saving plans. This includes a large number of communication and education resources for private homes and businesses. The Office also provides certificates and training on better use of energy.
Transport Canada regulates Canada’s transportation infrastructure and is involved in reducing emissions in transportation systems. This agency developed guidelines to address climate change and air quality, which include climate change communication and training that focus on better driving and increased use of public transportation where available.
Infrastructure Canada is another critical player in the Canadian government for climate change. It provides support for the building industry and promotes green and sustainable buildings.
The Fisheries and Oceans Canada Communication Branch frequently provides information on the impacts of climate change on oceans and seas.
Health Canada is an important government agency for climate communication and education, providing information and education materials on the effects of climate change and pollution on health. It is also responsible for environmental and workplace health.
Education and communication
In Canada, education is under the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories. Provinces and territories share information and discuss issues of common interest through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). CMEC is an intergovernmental forum that brings together the ministers responsible for education and higher education from the 13 provinces and territories. The Council coordinates pan-Canadian work at the early learning, elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels, as well as adult learning, and has a unit dedicated to Indigenous education.
Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada is vital to economic development in Canada. This includes funding of climate change research and distribution of materials on the importance of science. This government agency is also vital in international trade agreements and long-term development plans. It provides resources for tackling climate change and protecting the environment.
Indigenous Services Canada is involved in developing and protecting natural resources and the environment in First Nations communities. This involvement includes the Climate Change and Health Adaptation Program, which provides knowledge building and communication materials for the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
The Joint Committee on Climate Action was established in 2016 and brings together representatives from First Nations and the Government of Canada, to increase First Nations’ participation in decision making for climate action.
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada works on climate change in Indigenous and Northern communities. This includes work on health, energy costs, cold climate, and remoteness and inaccessibility. Several programs are specially designed for those communities due to their increased vulnerability with climate change.
The provinces and territories have different structures for climate change communication and education. For example, British Columbia’s Climate Action Secretariat gives details on the province’s climate change communication and education efforts. The Nova Scotia Environment – Climate Change Unit provides information on climate change in Nova Scotia. The Nunavut Climate Change Secretariat offers information and resources for Nunavut. Québec’s Ministère de l'Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change) provides information on climate change for schools via the Corner of Rafale, an education platform offering resources for teachers. Most of the other provinces and territories provide climate change information but have no separate climate change communication and education units at the time of this review.
iii. Relevant laws, policies, and plans
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) is the primary legislation on which Canada’s climate change policies are based. Most climate change regulations are developed at the federal level under this Act. Education and communication are not specifically part of the Act.
In 2008, Canada adopted the Federal Sustainable Development Act. The Act lays out the governance structure for sustainable development in Canada and is the basis for other laws and legislation. Climate change is not explicitly mentioned, and neither are climate change communication and education. The Act does lay out principles for public access to information and public participation that are relevant for environmental decision making.
The Impact Assessment Act (2019) assesses the (environmental) impacts of major projects and projects carried out on federal lands or outside of Canada. The Act recognizes Indigenous governing bodies as a level of government with shared jurisdiction over the environment.
The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (2021) provides the legal framework for Canada to reach net zero emissions by 2050. According to the Act, the best scientific knowledge available (Article 8a) and Indigenous knowledge (Article 8c), must be considered when setting greenhouse gas emission targets.
The Federal Adaptation Policy Framework for Climate Change (2011) guides Canada’s climate change strategy. The Framework lays out a structure for climate change adaptation. Neither climate change communication or education are mentioned in the Framework. A new National Adaptation Strategy will be launched at the end of 2022. A consultation website for the new Strategy is set up to increase public engagement.
The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016) is Canada’s climate change strategy, jointly developed by all provinces and territories. The Framework lays out 50 measures to reduce emissions in Canada. Climate change communication and education are only mentioned marginally in the context of consumer education and health education. In addition to this federal Framework, several provincial and territorial plans exist to reduce emissions. An overview of those plans is given at the end of this section.
The Emergency Management Strategy for Canada: Towards a Resilient 2030 is the third strategy for emergency management. It includes climate change responses and identifies federal, provincial, and territorial priorities that will strengthen Canada’s resilience by 2030
In 2020, Canada released A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy – Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan. The Plan focuses on jobs and health factors and has a strong focus on climate change training. One of the Plan’s objectives is development of a National Adaptation Strategy by the end of 2022.
The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2019–2022) and its 2021 Update are Canada’s strategies to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and establish targets and indicators for the country. The 2019–2022 version of the Strategy is its second iteration. It includes 13 goals and aspirations for Canada and includes a chapter on effective action for climate change. Climate change communication and education are targeted indirectly through exemplary actions and initiatives suggested in the Strategy.
The draft for the new Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026), published by Canada Environment and Climate Change, strongly focuses on climate change. Chapter 13 is dedicated to climate action. The Strategy includes indicators to measure Canada’s progress toward the SDGs, including climate change communication and education indicators.
Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan was launched in 2022. The Plan gives a detailed overview of how Canada wants to reduce emissions and how this will affect the economy. The Plan focuses on including education institutions in emission reduction and aims to strengthen climate change communication and training.
Canada’s Changing Climate Report (2019), developed by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and its follow-up report Canada’s Changing Climate Report in Light of the Latest Global Science Assessment (2022), provide status updates on Canada’s climate and give recommendations for the government on how to act to adapt and mitigate climate change. Neither report includes climate change education and they only marginally include communication. Nevertheless, they are widely cited as sources of information for climate change communication and education and are seen as important resource materials.
The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (2019) was developed by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national representative organization for the 65,000 Inuit in Canada. Priority 1 is to “Advance Inuit capacity and knowledge in climate decision making.” (p. 7) Priority 2 is to “Improve Inuit and environmental health and wellness outcomes through integrated Inuit health, education and climate policies and initiatives.” (p. 7)
The Greening Government Strategy: A Government of Canada Directive (2020) has four key focus areas: move its mobility and fleets toward zero emission vehicles, create net zero carbon workplaces and buildings, establish climate-resilient services and operations, and work toward net zero procurement of goods and services.
Canada’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) provide additional information on climate action by First Nations. The Métis Nation, together with the Inuit and First Nations, promote participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s decision making. In 2020, the Métis Nation defined climate change priorities to increase Métis climate leadership in Canada, including “Capacity-building; Collecting Métis traditional knowledge, conducting research and collecting data to guide Métis policy; Education and training opportunities in climate change: Environmental stewardship and nature-based solutions” (p. 42).
Canada’s 7th National Communication (2017) highlights that nine provinces and territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador) have developed climate change adaptation plans and strategies. Annex 4 of the National Communication gives a detailed overview of many policies and measures adopted in provinces and territories. Some of those policies include climate change communication and education. The Final Report (n.d.) of the Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience summarizes activities for each province and territory (p. 39).
The updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) gives another overview of the provinces’ plans and strategies. These include British Columbia’s CleanBC (2018), Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy (2017), Made in Manitoba Climate and Green Plan (2017), Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan (2018), Québec’s Plan for a Green Economy (2020), New Brunswick’s Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Economy (2016), Nova Scotia’s Sustainable Development Goals Act (2019), Prince Edward Island’s Climate Leadership Act (2018), the Newfoundland &Labrador The Way Forward on Climate Change (2019), the Yukon’s Our Clean Future: A Yukon Strategy for Climate Change, Energy and a Green Economy (2020), and the Northwest Territories’ 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework. Nunavut and Alberta had no climate change plans at the time of this review.
Education and communication
The Canadian Constitution gives the responsibility for education to the provinces and territories, meaning there are 13 distinct education systems in Canada. Thus, Canada has no National Curriculum Framework or National Education Sector Plan. In 2008, ministers responsible for education in Canada released Learn Canada 2020, a non-binding joint declaration that outlines overarching principles for education in Canada. It does not mention climate change, but includes sustainability.
In 1999 the Public Education and Outreach Issue Table, as part of the National Climate Change Implementation Process, published Reaching Out to Canadians on Climate Change: A Public Education and Outreach Strategy as a response to the Kyoto Protocol. The Strategy aimed to develop a long-term climate change communication and education strategy. The Strategy had three goals:
- to build awareness and understanding among Canadians of climate change, its impacts and the associated environmental, economic and social issues;
- to recognize that climate change is a priority issue and develop support from Canadians for policy changes and actions that will be required, as part of the National Climate Change Implementation Strategy; and
- to encourage and motivate Canadians to take personal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (p. 1)
This is the only federal document published on the Government of Canada’s publications website that combines the terms climate change, communication, and education. The document is no longer valid, because Canada left the Kyoto Protocol in 2011.
Another older document is A Framework for Environmental Learning and Sustainability in Canada (2002), one of Canada’s contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The document includes several reverences to climate change and highlights that Canadians were concerned about the state of the climate. The Framework also offers snapshots of projects that were happening around Canada at the time of publication.
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada published Educating for Sustainability (n.d.), reporting on the status of sustainable development education in Canada. The document’s definition of sustainability includes climate change. It was unclear at the time of this review if Educating for Sustainability was currently in use.
The Pan-Canadian Systems Level Framework on Global Competencies was developed in 2016 by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. It includes six broad competencies that can be leveraged in a variety of situations, including sustainable development and global citizenship.
Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) is a synthesis report published by Environment and Climate Change Canada that highlights the need for more knowledge and science about climate change in Canada. The report focuses on the need to include Indigenous knowledges in climate science and provides guidelines for incorporating climate change in sustainable development. The draft Climate Science 2050: Canada’s Climate Change Science and Knowledge Plan based on the synthesis report was in public consultation at the time of this review and will be published at the end of 2022.
The Canada Climate Change and Education report, released by Ellen Field from Lakehead University and Learning for a Sustainable Future in 2019, was funded by the Canadian government and provides data on the perceptions of Canadians about climate change. At the time of this review, a new survey report was being developed for the most recent years. The report is frequently mentioned in government policies and documents.
The Sustainability and Education Policy Network published multiple reports on climate change education in Canada. Responding to Climate Change: A Primer for K-12 Education (2020) addresses primary to secondary education and Climate Change and the Canadian Higher Education System (2017) addresses higher education.
Mandate letters released in December 2021 by federal government ministries lay out the government’s plans for the following years. The letters to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Natural Resources include development of a climate data strategy to provide better access to climate data.
iv. Terminology used for Climate Change Education and Communication
Climate change communication and education is often intertwined with ‘environmental education’ in Canada. ‘Education for sustainable development’ and ‘education for sustainability’ are terms used as well. Another commonly used term is ‘climate science,’ usually combined with words such as research, knowledge, climate action, and data sharing. ‘Just transition’ is a new key term, often used in relation to Canada’s net-zero strategy.
Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) highlights that science and knowledge are essential to “better understand the breadth of Canadian climate change science and knowledge gaps and guide science and knowledge producers, holders, and funders as they advance the collaborative and interdisciplinary efforts needed to inform climate action” (p. 1). This report establishes a connection between climate change and sustainable development.
Overall, climate change action and sustainable development are intrinsically linked: action on one can help advance achievement of the other, and inaction on one can jeopardize achievement of the other. There is strong alignment between climate change research priorities and the SDGs. Situating climate change research in the broader socio-economic context of sustainable development can advance both agendas and help facilitate the mainstreaming of climate change science and knowledge. (2020, p. 8)
Learn Canada 2020 establishes activity areas in ‘education for sustainable development,’ defined as “Raise students’ awareness and encourage them to become actively engaged in working for a sustainable society.” (2008, p. 2).
The quality of education section of the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) promotes ‘environmental knowledge’ and data sharing for access to information on biodiversity, ecosystems, air quality, nature conservation, climate change action, and adaptation.
Canada has a strong focus on Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Adaptation, which include the people living on the land and doing land-based activities. For climate change communication and education, this includes excursions into nature and other initiatives that connect people to nature.
The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (2019) focuses on a rights-based approach to climate action, meaning that “Inuit are rights holders and any climate action should apply a rights-based approach premised on partnerships with representatives of Inuit and governments.” This includes land-based education. The Strategy calls for three learning outcomes related to climate action:
Inuit have meaningful roles at climate change decision making tables.
Culturally appropriate, Inuktut educational initiatives linked to on-the-land Inuit knowledge transfer are sustainably and widely available across Inuit Nunangat, and internationally across Inuit Nunaat to Inuit in other circumpolar countries.
Best available knowledge, both Indigenous and scientific, is accessible and used in climate decision making across Inuit Nunangat and Inuit Nunaat. (p. 21)
v. Budget for climate change education and communication
According to the World Bank, Canada spent 5.3% of its gross domestic product on education in 2011. However, it is unclear how much of this spending was for climate change communication and education.
The Canadian Budget 2021 suggests that since 2015, Canada:
invested roughly [US$ 46 billion (CAD 60 billion)] toward climate action and clean growth. In 2020, we announced an additional investment of [US$ 11.5 (CAD 15 billion]) for Canada’s strengthened climate plan, along with nearly [US$ 11.5 (CAD 15 billion)] for public transit in February 2021. Canada also has a strong and rising price on carbon, accelerating further action on climate change and transforming our economy. Building on recent investments, Budget 2021 proposes to provide [US$ 13.5 (CAD 17.6 billion)] towards a green recovery to create jobs, build a clean economy, and fight and protect against climate change. (p. 159–160)
Budget 2022 highlights that Canada invested over US$ 76.7 billion (CAD 100 billion) since 2015 in climate action. The Budget does not mention direct funding for climate change communication and education.
The Government of Canada provides many funding opportunities related to climate change on its website. This includes the Climate Action and Awareness Fund to increase climate change action capacity among Canadians. The Fund has a budget of US$ 158.6 million (CAD 206 million) over 5 years and focuses primarily on youth climate awareness, support for think tanks and research institutes, and advancing climate science and technology.
Beginning in 2018, the Climate Action Fund awarded up to US$ 2.20 million (CAD$ 3 million) per year to support innovative ideas. The objective of the program was to raise awareness of climate change and to build capacity in order to increase climate actions that contribute to Canada’s clean growth and climate change plans (the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth (2016) and Climate Change and A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy (2020). The Climate Action and Awareness Fund has three main priorities: support youth climate awareness and community-based climate action; support climate research at Canadian think tanks and in academia and; advance climate science and technology. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, the Climate Action Fund funded 44 climate action projects. In September 2020, the Climate Action and Awareness Fund was created with contributions from the existing Climate Action Fund, as well as a significant investment from the Environmental Damages Fund. The Climate Action Fund supported an additional 20 projects with $US 4.40 million4.4 (CAD 6 million) in funding. All projects supported by the Climate Action Fund were completed as of March 31, 2022.
In 2019 it was announced that the Government of Canada would invest US$ 3.23 (CAD 4.4 million) in climate action and awareness for young Canadians (Clean Foundation’s Youth Climate Action Now (YouCAN) project). A key pillar of this project is to provide professional learning to 2,000 educators and give them tools to support youth in their climate action initiatives. This project will bring together partners from across the four Atlantic provinces to develop and deliver high-quality, regionally relevant Climate Action and Awareness programs for K 12 youth, students and educators in Atlantic Canada.
Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) reports that Canada has a knowledge gap on climate financing that should be closed.
The draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) has a target to “Implement Canada’s climate finance commitment of [US$ 4 billion (CAD 5.3 billion)] over five years, with at least 40% of funding going toward climate adaptation and at least 20% to projects that leverage nature-based climate solutions and projects that contribute biodiversity co-benefits.” (p. 202) This funding is part of Canada’s international assistance.
The 7th National Communication reported that Canada invested US$ 0.9 billion (CAD 1.2 billion) to deliver almost 500,000 new training and work opportunities for Canadians and US$ 173 million (CAD 225 million) in the Future Skills program. Those initiatives include climate change, although not exclusively. The Communication highlights that Canada is committed to financing climate change communication and education initiatives in developing countries.
i. Climate change in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education
Learn Canada 2020 (2008) – published by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada – does not mention climate change but highlights the connection between education and “a socially progressive, sustainable society” (n.p.). Education for sustainable development is one of the document’s critical activities areas.
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada published in 2016 a non-prescriptive pan-Canadian Global Competencies Framework. Global Citizenship and Sustainability is one of the six competences described in the Framework. Climate change is not directly mentioned in the document.
The Canada Climate Change and Education Report (2019), released by Dr. Ellen Field from Lakehead University, and Learning for a Sustainable Future and funded by the Canadian government, surveyed the perceptions of climate change among Canadians, focusing on how people think the education system should respond to climate change. The survey showed that, at the time, teaching climate change education in Canadian classrooms was limited. “Only ⅓ of closed-sample teachers reported teaching any climate change. Of teachers who do integrate climate change content, most teach 1–10 hours of instruction per year or semester.” (p. 8) The study highlighted the need for better and more climate change education in Canada. Climate change education was lowest in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the study. Another study (2019) applied six categories of the IPCC to curriculum and analyzed secondary science curriculum, and found that learning objectives tend to focus on physical climate mechanisms, observed increase in temperature and anthropogenic causes of warming and have little to no emphasis on scientific consensus, climate impacts, or actions. A national curriculum review (2022, in press) shows uneven inclusion of climate change topics, themes and units within grade 7 – 12 curricula, with most expectations occurring in elective senior secondary courses, especially in the field of natural sciences. A second level of analysis with a ranking tool indicates shallow engagement with climate change content by teachers.
A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy– Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan (2020) includes funding for schools to reduce emissions of school buildings. The Plan has no further information about this, other than schools being important infrastructure that must be included in Canada’s net zero strategy.
Climate change education is organized differently in each province and territory. British Columbia’s Climate Action Secretariat provides an overview of the inclusion of climate change in British Columbia’s formal education system. Climate change is part of the province’s curriculum, primarily in Natural Science courses for Grades 11 and 12, with more inclusion planned. British Columbia’s reformed curriculum, which adopts a competency approach and is organized with big ideas. Climate change can link to many big ideas, if a teacher has the professional knowledge to make these links. A collaborative project, Infusing Climate Education into the BC curriculum, is addressing this gap by developing a framework and professional development for teachers over a three year grant. Yukon follows the older version of the British Columbia curriculum. Alberta issued resources for environmental education that includes a climate change education kit for Grades 4–6. Saskatchewan provides resources and information on climate change on its curriculum resource page. Education for Sustainable Development is integrated throughout Manitoba’s K-12 curriculum. A Climate Change Resource for Grades 5 to 12 Teachers assists Manitoba teachers in engaging their students in the topic of climate change. Quebec’s curriculum also focuses on education for sustainable development. Manitoba has numerous courses related to green industries in elective secondary courses that have explicit climate change expectations. Ontario’s Ministry of Education focuses mainly on environmental education, providing resources for its inclusion in the curriculum. The province provides a framework for school boards and schools to implement environmental learning, policies, and practices in a community-centered context. Ontario’s recently revised Science and Technology curriculum (2022) and new Grade 9 Science (2022) course includes updated opportunities for students to build foundational knowledge about healthy environments, and that interactions between humans and the environment have impacts. Mandatory learning also includes the impacts of non-renewable and renewable energy sources, the responsible use of electrical energy, and how climate change has contributed to the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps and the effects this is having on local and global water systems. For example, in Grade 9, students develop the skills and knowledge needed to understand the causes and potential innovative solutions and mitigation strategies related to climate change and other environmental issues. The non-governmental organization Learning for a Sustainable Future published, with support from the Ontario government, the brochure: Climate Change Resources for Teachers (2019). The brochure lists a wide range of resources, primarily from Learning for a Sustainable Future’s resource database Resources for Rethinking, which teachers can use to educate students about climate change. Resources are mainly for Grades 7–12. Québec published the 2021–2022 Sustainable Development Support-Advice Plan for the School Network, one of the few education guides found by this review. Québec includes “the fight against climate change” in its definition of education for sustainable development. Québec had a special call for youth projects on climate change, situated within the Youth Action Plan 2021-2024, and includes climate change in primary and early childhood curricula (2006) as well as Science and Technology Curriculum for Secondary Schools and offers the Contemporary World Program, offered in the fifth and final year of secondary education, where the concepts of sustainable development and the environment are developed. Nova Scotia published Taking on Climate Change: A Teaching Companion in Nova Scotia (2013), a guide to support teachers on climate change (taught primarily in Grade 10). Climate anxiety and emotions around climate change are emphasized in the guide. Nova Scotia has recently revised its Science curriculum for K-12 and integrated climate change content. New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan (2016) includes the need for more climate change education. The New Brunswick government further supports the Gaia Project’s Climate Change Education Plan (2019). No formal education-related information specific to climate change was found for the other provinces and territories.
According to the 7th National Communication (2017), “The subject of climate change is integrated into the primary and secondary school curriculum in Canada, and many nongovernmental organizations exist to assist educators to access diverse resources and align teaching activities with the required curriculum”(p. 13). The Communication states that climate change is taught across a wide range of subjects but is usually part of Science and Geography studies. Students typically start learning about climate change in Grade 4. Climate justice and action learning dimensions are key: “The study of climate change is treated progressively more comprehensively starting from grade 4, with studies in grades 10–12 exploring the more complex nature of climate change including global impacts and anthropogenic drivers” (p .294).
ii. Climate change in teacher training and teaching resources
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, published Science Resources for Teachers (2013) as a resource that teachers and subject-area specialists could use to guide the teaching of science. The resource complements the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) 2013 – Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Science, Reading and Mathematics. Within the Earth Sciences subdomain of PCAP 2013, the understanding of climate in a global context in relation to science, technology, and society, and the description of environmental impacts related to water resources and climate issues, was assessed.
The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada‘s report Educating for Sustainability (n.d.) provides an overview of pre-service and in-service teaching for sustainability in Canada. The report states that in 1999 “the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation adopted a resolution pertaining to education for sustainability. Policies (3.9) specified that, where appropriate, education for sustainability should be incorporated into pre-service and in-service programs” (p. 40). No further information on this resolution was found by this review.
In 2021, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation called for more climate change education in Canadian schools. According to a blog post on the organization’s website: “The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) has numerous commitments, set by our membership, regarding climate change. As educators, we recognize the value in teaching K-12 students about the negative impacts of climate change and the best way to mitigate them.” One goal of the Federation is to include climate change in all curricula in Canada, but no concrete examples of climate change commitments were found on the website.
Pre-service teacher training is primarily at universities and higher education institutions. For example, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education published a Sustainability & Climate Action Plan (2021) to include climate change in its curricula. The Institute also conducts research on pre- and in-service teacher training with a special focus on sustainability and climate change. Lakehead University offers an elective in climate change education in its Master of Education and Bachelor of Education programs and has a mandatory environmental education class in the Bachelor of Education program. Another example of pre-service teacher training is the Master's of Education in Indigenous Land-Based Education at the University of Saskatchewan, including land-based education and climate change. This degree program is part of the Educational Foundations program, which focuses on topics including climate change education and ecological, environmental, place-based, and land-based education. The Université du Québec à Montréal offers a short-term graduate course on environmental education. Researchers in climate education and environmental education are also involved in two major projects led by Université du Québec à Montréal and Université du Québec en Outaouais The first is aimed to develop practical training pathways in climate change education at the primary and secondary levels, while the second is aimed to integrate content related to education for sustainable development into various initial teacher training programs in Québec. These new projects are funded by the Ministry of Higher Education Québec for the next years.
Environment and Natural Resources Canada offers resources on its website for educators to enhance curriculum materials. Resources range from pre-primary to postsecondary education, providing unique learning opportunities for students, lesson plans, and whole-school approaches in the form of EcoSchools Canada. The website suggests ways to involve youth, such as through the non-governmental organization Youth Climate Labs, and shows funding opportunities such as the Climate Action Fund. Other initiatives promoted on the website include:
- Eddie the Puppet Road Tours, a program for pre-primary education. A cat puppet teaches children about environmental protection, including climate change. The program is run by the non-governmental organization Clean Foundation.
- GreenLearning, a resource website run by an non-governmental organization of the same name, focuses on energy, climate change, and the green economy for all grade levels. Teachers can choose lesson plans and teaching ideas.
- Earth Rangers Eco-Anxiety app, offers primary students a way to learn about climate change while dealing with eco-anxiety.
- Climate Action Kit, provided by the organization InkSmith, combines technology and climate action. It allows students to build different types of technology to protect the climate. InkSmith offers several other projects focusing on climate change and technology, such as Coding for Climate Webinars and Curriculum and Lesson Plans.
- Eco Canada offers career guidance on professions for environmental protection and climate change. They offer a collection of e-books, guides, webinars, short videos, and brochures for secondary students.
- Be the Change – Earth Alliance runs the Student Leadership for Change program. The program offers lesson plans on changing student behavior. Be the Change – Earth Alliance has a variety of other projects focusing on climate change, such as Youth Climate Ambassador Workshops jointly with the University of British Columbia Climate Hub.
Canada’s 7th National Communication (2017) notes that several teaching resources and portals for teachers run by different organizations exist. The Communication states that most of those organizations focus on environmental education, but gives no further details.
iii. Climate change in higher education
Postsecondary education institutes are key drivers in climate change communication and education in Canada. The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016), A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy (2020), and Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) all highlight the critical involvement of academics in climate action.
The Government of Canada aims to connect research findings across sectors, including for climate change. The Roadmap for Open Science (2020) aims to open federal science for all. In the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026), the Roadmap is highlighted as an essential tool for sustainable development.
The draft for the new Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) aims to increase the number of students in training for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers by increasing higher education accessibility. Higher education is seen as a key to fulfill the Strategy.
Sustainable Canada Dialogues is an initiative under the UNESCO- McGill Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability and the Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy. Published in 2015 Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, a recommendation document endorsed by 321 Canadian scholars to transition to a low-carbon society.
The New Frontiers in Research Fund is one of Canada’s federal funding programs for scientific research, established in 2018. Climate change research is one of the most frequently funded topics. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council also supports projects related to climate change communication and education, such as the Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education Project. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research fund various projects related to climate change as well.
The Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) report suggests mobilizing more Indigenous leadership and participation in climate science and knowledge. The report advises doing this by “Supporting Indigenous researchers as Principal Investigators, training community members to undertake research themselves, providing employment opportunities, contributing to community research infrastructure, and supporting the research needs and priorities of the community.” (p. 10)
A growing number of universities and higher education institutions in Canada offer programs related to climate change. For example, Yukon University offers a one-year online Climate Change Policy Post-Degree Certificate, focusing on climate science, adaptation and mitigation, Indigenous worldviews, and communication and education. The University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment hosts the Economics and Environmental Policy Research Network, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Climate change topics are a core part of the Policy Research Network. The University of Winnipeg hosts Manitoba’s Prairie Climate Centre, which focuses on communicating climate change research to the public and encourages them to participate actively in climate change decision making. First Nations University of Canada offers programs in Indigenous Knowledge & Science, which combines teaching from Elders with textbook science. The environment and environmental protection are at the core of those programs. The Nunavut Research Institute publishes a Glossary of Inuktitut Terminology of Climate Change (2019). Université Laval offers a microprogram in climate change. The University of Sherbrooke offers a Master’s program in environmental management and climate change and climate change is one of the six federated themes of the university. Lakehead University Lakehead University offers a Masters of Education specialization in Education for Change: Environmental and Sustainability Education that focuses on theory, research, and practices that analyze the cultural and ecological politics of sustainability and foster mutually flourishing relationships between humanity and the natural world. It includes approaches such as climate change pedagogy, ecopedagogy, environmental justice education, food education, humane education, outdoor education, and place-based education. The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) offers a short graduate program in environmental education that aims to develop competencies in environmental education and training in formal and non-formal settings.
In 2007, Colleges and Institutes Canada established a Pan Canadian Protocol for Sustainability. This document does not mention climate change, but it does encourage its signatories to contribute to a sustainable future by mainstreaming sustainability practices in their institutions.
Universities Canada created a blog series for university presidents across Canada to share their thoughts and display what their institutions are doing for the Sustainable Development Goals. Several university presidents focused on topics related to climate change, highlighting their institutions’ commitment and that higher education is vital to address climate change. Universities Canada also developed a toolkit to support its members with the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change.
The Fédération des Cégeps du Québec has also implemented the Plan for the Greening of Cégeps 2022-2024, which is intended to offer support and guidance to all establishments in integrating the sustainable development objectives adopted by the United Nations. This plan supports, among other things, the introduction of sustainable development into college-level training practices and programs throughout Quebec. Cégeps are publicly funded colleges in Quebec providing technical, academic, vocational education.
According to the 7th National Communication (2017), “Most Canadian universities offer environmental programs, and several offer climate science and research courses. Academia and government scientists have also partnered to collaborate on climate change research.” (p. 13) While climate change was a topic in the natural sciences in the past, the Communication highlights that a growing number of research institutes focus on climate change through the social sciences. The Communication notes that the Government of Canada partners with scientists and academia for climate research: “These partnerships and networks leverage expertise and resources to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of climate research in Canada and contribute to the training and experience of the next generation of Canadian scientists and researchers” (p. 294).
iv. Climate change in training and adult learning
Training and capacity building are among Canada’s core strategies to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The importance of training to reach net zero by 2050 is stressed in government documents A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy (2020), Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (2022), the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026), and other federal policy documents.
A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy (2020) focuses on training Canadians with the skills necessary for carbon-neutral jobs. The plan explains the Canada Training Benefit, which offers US$ 3,800 [CAD 5,000] to every Canadian to “gain new skills and seize the opportunities of the clean growth economy” (p. 50). The Employment Insurance Training Support Benefit provides workers with up to 4 weeks of Employment Insurance while on leave for training, with some types of training related to climate change. These training possibilities ensure Canadians can learn new skills for climate action. The plan also suggests enhancing capacities in Canada to manufacture better products in the country and avoid importing them.
The draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) strongly focuses on training for women, Indigenous peoples, marginalized groups, and government employees. The Strategy aims to increase the number of young Canadians pursuing skills training or careers in environmental sectors and to support youth skill development in environmental sectors through training programs, through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. The Sustainable Development Strategy further focuses on including women in the clean technology sector: “By 2026, increase the number of women employed in the clean technology sector from a baseline of 86,694 in 2019 (Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry).” (p. 57) Removing barriers supports this indicator with access to training opportunities, such as the Science Horizons Youth Internship program and the international Equal by 30 Campaign to enhance participation of women in clean energy transitions. The Sustainable Development Strategy seeks to reduce inequalities by providing “financial support as well as business advisory services, mentorship, and training opportunities for Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs, including in the environmental sector.” (p. 105)
Green jobs and training are provided to Indigenous peoples and people in the North through programs such as Indigenous Skills and Employment Training. Training providers supported by Employment and Social Development Canada help communities to receive training, including climate change training.
The Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) report highlights how First Nations Elders are developing training possibilities for youth, facilitating intergenerational knowledge transfer. Some of those projects are funded by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. For example, the Dena Tha’ First Nation Based Climate Monitoring Program was funded from 2019 to 2020 to transfer knowledge from older to younger generations.
The Mandate letters for Canada’s federal government ministries (2021) strongly focus on providing training initiatives to allow Canada to become net zero. One example is future development of a Clean Jobs Training Centre to offer more training options for Canadian workers, a task of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (2022) mandates that “All executives in the Government of Canada must take a course on climate change and net-zero.” It further mandates for “existing budgets and service providers to require new mandatory training for the approximately 7,000 federal executives. The training should be explicitly grounded in the best available science, Indigenous Knowledge, leading reports and projections, as well as in the values and principles outlined in our report, Net-Zero Pathways: Initial Observations.” (p. 184)
Environment and Climate Change Canada‘s Inuit Field Training Program teaches young Inuit the skills and techniques to work in research camps in the North. Training is to help them find better employment opportunities and build capacity for Inuit to contribute to climate change science in the Arctic. Inuit traditional knowledge is taught by Elders.
Canada’s Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities program supports capacity building, training, skill development, and knowledge dissemination to stop using fossil fuels and to use climate friendlier alternatives in Indigenous, rural, and remote communities. Canada will invest US$ 232 million (CAD 300 million) until 2027.
The Dollars to $ense Energy Management Workshops, run by the Institute for Energy Training and developed by Natural Resources Canada, are workshops for representatives of industrial, commercial, and institutional organizations on how to save energy. Since 1997, over 30,000 people have benefited from the workshops. Similar programs are offered by the Office of Energy Efficiency training initiatives for the transportation sector. The Office of Energy Efficiency also provides training for federal procurement officers and executives.
To leverage its scientific resources, Environment and Climate Change Canada has developed a pilot program, in French and English, which helps scientists, researchers and science experts to become better science communicators and harness storytelling and presentation techniques to reach and motivate more Canadians to take environmental and climate action. Once trained, these experts are connected to the Canadian public through a network of schools, museums, science centres as well non-governmental organizations.
Canada’s 7th National Communication (2017) highlights that climate change training opportunities are available for different sectors in the provinces and territories. For example, “The Government of Québec’s Climate Change Action Plan includes training activities for healthcare professionals, municipalities, the tourism industry, and community organizations. In the Yukon, the territorial government has partnered with Yukon College’s Northern Climate ExChange to fund the Climate Change Information and Mainstreaming Program, which provides climate change courses and technical project support to government departments” (p. 297). The Communication also highlights a Climate Change Adaptation Training Course for Nunavut Decision-Makers. The Communication also points to capacity building programs that Canada supports in developing countries.
i. Climate change and public awareness
The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016) is described in government documents as pivotal to raising awareness of climate change in Canada. The Framework refers to the need to raise awareness of climate change risk in the health and agriculture sectors. This includes the need to plan for climate change and prepare Canadians for potential threats.
The Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) report states that the release of several federal climate reports and assessments, under the Canada in a Changing Climate process, have supported general awareness of climate change in Canada. Climate Science 2050 also states that more specialized reports are needed to reach diverse audiences.
The Emergency Management Strategy for Canada: Toward a Resilient 2030 (2017) is part of the future national climate change adaptation strategy, which includes roles for Public Safety Canada and other federal departments like Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Strategy has a strong focus on increasing awareness and readiness of Canadians.
While not focusing directly on climate change, the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022 2026) aims to raise public awareness and preparedness for natural disasters. This includes access to information to help Canadians respond to climate change.
The 2021 Science Literacy Week, organized by Environment and Climate Change Canada, had climate change as a theme. Science Literacy Week is a yearly event encouraging Canadians to read about science topics. The Week includes access to museums, cinemas, universities, and other organizations related to the year’s theme. The Scientists-at-Large activity during the Week connected scientists with the public and provided direct experience with climate change science. Scientists working with climate change also answered questions at public events.
In 2021 the Government of Canada invested US$ 4.33 million (CAD 5.9 million) from environmental fines in a climate change awareness and action project, Let’s Talk Science, to engage youth in climate action.
Environment and Climate Change Canada runs a comprehensive website called Take Climate Action that provides initiatives for different stakeholder groups. The website summarizes what Canadians can do to become active in climate action. One feature on the website is Climate Kids, an interactive site with games and quizzes for children to explore climate change topics in a child-friendly way. They can learn about energy conservation, plastic, and oceans, and what they can do to address climate change.
The Government of Canada runs frequent public awareness campaigns to reach all Canadians. They have included the National Youth Summit on Climate Change (2016) and the National Youth Summit on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2018). Young people came together to discuss climate change and met Canadian politicians to share their concerns and ideas. #YouthClimateAction is a hashtag developed for those Summits to engage more youth. The 7th National Communication reported, “Over 100 youth from the Ottawa-Gatineau region attended the Summit, with more joining the conversation online and reaching well over 500,000 Canadians on social media through #YouthClimateAction” (p. 296).
Another campaign was Climate Change is Here—Visual Display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The exhibition showed the different dangers of climate change today and the future, with a particular focus on the different scenarios for Canada and why climate change is a threat to Canadians. The exhibition is available online.
The First Nations of Québec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute develops initiatives and projects to support climate action among First Nations. For example, a book for children in English, French, Anishinaabe, Atikamekw, Cree, Innu-aimun, Mi’kmaq, and Kanien’kéha explains how climate change is affecting First Nations communities. The Institute also organized an Indigenous Youth Ambassador Event in 2019 and developed a guide (2015) for First Nations that want to create their own climate change adaptation plans.
The 7th National Communication (2017) states that “Across Canada, all levels of government and numerous nongovernmental organizations have undertaken a range of activities to broaden public awareness of climate change and encourage collective action”(p. 13). Non-governmental organizations, universities, and municipalities carry out many of the projects mentioned in the Communication, and many of the examples listed focus on awareness of energy consumption. The document also highlights that “Federal, provincial and territorial governments frequently make use of the web and social media as a platform to deliver relevant information about climate change programs and initiatives” (p. 13).
ii. Climate change and public access to information
Canada’s leading climate change government organizations, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada, have comprehensive websites with access to information for Canadians. Each province and territory has a website giving climate change data and information for their jurisdiction. Natural Resources Canada runs the Energy Efficiency Insider, a newsletter providing information to businesses, homeowners, and others interested in how to save energy. Under Canada.ca/ClimateAction, the federal government provides information on its climate plan, which at the time of this review focuses mainly on carbon pollution pricing and emission offsets.
The Canadian Centre for Climate Services is the lead organization on access to climate change information. The Centre offers publicly accessible resources that include a library of climate resources, climate information for decision making, a hotline to connect with the climate service support desk, and climate data. The library of climate resources holds a collection of climate policy, education, and awareness materials from different sources, including international sources. The Centre also distributes the Climate Trends and Variations Bulletin, a newsletter appearing four times a year with the latest climate change news. The Centre is based on the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016), which strongly focuses on improving access to information and making climate data available to all.
The Office of Energy Efficiency runs the Directory of Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Programs and the EnerGuide Appliance Directory. Both Directories provide information on programs and appliances to save energy. The Energy Efficiency Labelling Program supports this. Labeling ENERGY STAR is used internationally to certify energy-efficient products, homes, and buildings. Energy Star Awards is a yearly competition to award outstanding efforts to save energy.
The Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, part of the Climate Research Division of Natural Resources Canada, provides simulations and data for Canadian and global climates. Data are freely available. The Centre works with the World Climate Research Programme in support of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to carry out climate model experiments.
The Canada Climate Change and Education report (2019) indicates that 86% of Canadians need more information about climate change, with 43% of Canadians failing the climate change knowledge test developed by the study. The report highlights a discrepancy between trust in information and sources of information: “When asked which sources of climate change information Canadians trust the most, 72% of Canadians said scientists/academics; however, Canadians get most climate change information from television news (54%), documentaries (48%), and conversations with friends and family (47%)” (p. 7).
Climate Atlas Canada is an interactive website offering climate data for Canada, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Government of Canada. It is based at the University of Winnipeg’s Prairie Climate Centre. The Atlas “combines climate science, mapping, and storytelling together with Indigenous knowledge and community-based research and video to inspire awareness and action” (n.d.). Users can access data and use multiple display forms, including videos and climate maps. Indigenous knowledge is prominently featured on the website. Health, Indigenous knowledge, and climate science are core topics. The intended audience for the Atlas are citizens, researchers, businesses, and community and political leaders.
Climate Data is a portal displaying climate data for Canada, funded by the Government of Canada and run by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Computer Research Institute of Montréal, Ouranos, the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, the Prairie Climate Centre, and HabitatSeven. The portal provides data on the sectors of transportation, agriculture, health, and building. Users can model the effects of climate change on regions in Canada and see impacts if no action is taken. The portal also displays current regional data.
The Climate Action Map is an interactive map that details climate change initiatives taken by the Government of Canada. Information focuses on clean and renewable energy, electric vehicle charging stations and alternative fuel infrastructure, energy efficiency in homes and businesses, public transit, investments in Indigenous communities, made-in-Canada clean technologies, cleaner energy sources for rural and remote communities to use, and support for communities to adapt to climate change.
The Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation (CBC) hosts the radio show “What on Earth?” which focuses on many different aspects of nature. Topics are often related to climate change, ranging from updates on extreme weather events to climate policy debates.
Access to earth observation data is a major recurring topic in Canada’s climate change policies. The draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026), the Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) report, and the 7th National Communication (2017) all highlight the importance of access to information from satellite data to address climate change. The draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022 2026) uses “the amount of earth observation data received by the Canada Center for Mapping and Earth Observation and made available to Canadians and critical government services” (p. 52) as an indicator to map access to information.
Under the hashtag #ClimateHero, Canada invites people to share their climate stories on social media. The hashtag receives significant engagement, especially during frequent social media campaigns. The hashtag is run by Environment and Natural Resources. Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Twitter account @environmentca is another social media channel used by the government to improve public awareness on climate change. The Government of Canada uses Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Twitter to reach Canadians.
iii. Climate change and public participation
Most of Canada’s climate change policies and strategies were developed with public consultations and other means of public participation such as roundtables and workshops. Before publishing the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016), the Government of Canada launched the project Let’s Talk Climate Action as an interactive website asking Canadians for their views on how to address climate change. Those views were collected to inform the Framework. The Federal Sustainable Development Strategies were also open for comments from the public, and stakeholder outreach is “on-going through meetings, webinars, and social media,” according to the 7th National Communication (2017).
Canada aims to engage all people in climate action through diverse projects and initiatives. The Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) report, for example, explains how Canada promotes the participation, knowledge, and rights of Indigenous peoples in international climate discussions. Canada, together with the National Indigenous Organizations, advocated for the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform and the creation of the Facilitative Working Group at the UNFCCC. The Canadian delegation to the UNFCCC and IPCC includes representatives of Indigenous peoples. The Joint Committee on Climate Action aims to increase First Nations’ participation in federal decision making for climate action.
The National Inuit Climate Change Strategy (2019) focuses on bringing more Indigenous peoples to climate change discussions. The Strategy states:
Inuit have largely been excluded from participation in federal, provincial, and territorial climate decision making. In order to ensure that Inuit can meaningfully contribute to climate decisions, and to improve local Inuit access to the best available climate data and services, we must have the opportunity and capacity to become fully engaged. Increased capacity, coordination and information sharing are necessary to benefit climate decision making both within and beyond Inuit Nunangat by improving climate research and educational goals, and enabling more effective use of Inuit knowledge. (p. 21)
Canada also focuses on youth engagement by providing initiatives for youth to take part in climate action. Youth participation initiatives include a National Youth Summit on Climate Change in 2016, bringing together over 100 youth in person and half a million through social media. Another youth engagement project is Climate Action 150 (2017). High school students from 25 schools developed recommendations about climate change and presented their findings to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change during a virtual Town Hall meeting. A key initiative for youth is the Environment and Climate Change Youth Council, directly engaging youth with the government.
Canada focuses on gender inclusion in climate change discussions. The government provides a resource page, Women and Climate Change, to highlight the diverse needs of women and girls on climate change. A goal is to include women in international decision making. Canada increases women’s public participation in decision making by including them in delegations to the Conferences of the Parties. The draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) aims to increase the participation of women in environmental and climate action by campaigns, projects, and investments focusing on women and climate change.
Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Platform is a network of networks led by Natural Resources Canada. The Platform has 14 working groups from different sectors, working with the government to develop adaptation strategies and initiatives. Sectors include mining, energy, and science assessment. The Platform organizes webinars and produces publications relevant to stakeholders, such as the Adapting to Climate Change: an Introduction for Canadian Municipalities (2010).
One initiative to raise public participation and awareness was the 6-month Generation Energy dialogue in 2017. Through polls, surveys, and citizen dialogues, over 380,000 people were engaged in an inclusive discussion on Canada’s low-carbon energy future. The main question was: “What were the values and principles that Canadians cherished most and should guide their energy future?” (p. 4) The results informed Canada’s climate change policies and strategies.
The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (2016) notes that the Government of Canada works with the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador to monitor climate change effectively and better include climate change initiatives in decision making.
The 7th National Communication (2017) highlights the vital roles of non-governmental organizations in climate change communication and education in Canada. The Communication mentions the Pembina Institute, a think tank focused on “developing innovative sustainable energy solutions through research, education, consulting and advocacy” (2017, p. 300). The Communication also showcases the Smart Prosperity Institute, which focuses on public–private partnerships for a cleaner economy. The Smart Prosperity Institute was founded by “Canadian leaders from business, think tanks, labor, Indigenous Peoples, youth, and nongovernmental organization communities to advocate for Canada’s transition to a green economy” (2017, p. 300). Other non-governmental organizations that participate actively in climate change communication and education in Canada (mentioned in the Communication and other federal policy documents) are Learning for a Sustainable Future, ICLEI Canada, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through its Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program.
The updated Nationally Determined Contributions (2021) states that “With a diversity of unique experiences and knowledge related to the environment and climate change, the voices of Indigenous women, youth, Elders, 2SLGBTQQIA, and persons with disabilities are an essential part of climate leadership and action” (p. 7).
i. Country monitoring
Canada has a wide range of monitoring and evaluating mechanisms for climate change, although few with a focus on communication and education. The most referenced indicators in Canadian climate change policies are published by the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, part of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Climate change indicators focus primarily on greenhouse gases, water pollution, and wildlife. However, the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026) uses those indicators for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 13. The Strategy aims to:
By 2026, increase the annual number of Canadians accessing environmental sustainability information through the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators website, and through the Canadian Indicator Framework portal, to 260,000 visits from a baseline of 239,188 visits in 2020. (p. 186)
The draft Strategy includes a wide range of indicators that Canada aims to achieve by 2026. Climate change communication and education targets and indicators include:
By 2026, increase the number of Canadians accessing climate information through the Canadian Center for Climate Services from a baseline of 200,815 visits to the portals in 2021. (p. 186)
Increase Canada’s ranking for Average Relative Citation in natural sciences, engineering, and life sciences to the top 10 of OECD countries by 2025. (p. 186)
175,000 students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate in Canada by December 2025. (p. 186)
Proportion of municipal organizations who factored climate change adaptation into decision making processes. (p. 197)
The Canadian Indicator Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals is the lead portal in Canada to measure progress toward the SDGs. At the time of this review, no indicator focused on SDG 4.7, but the indicator to measure SDG 13.3.1 is “Proportion of municipal organizations who factored climate change adaptation into decision making processes.” Data for this indicator come from Statistics Canada and Infrastructure Canada. At the time of this review, no further information on the status of this indicator was found.
Statistics Canada is the primary federal government source for statistics on Canada, including education. At the time of this research, no information on climate change education was available on the data portal. Statistics Canada does list a large number of indicators for environmental protection, including air and climate.
The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program is a diagnostic assessment designed to determine whether students in grade 8 across Canada reach similar levels of performance in the core disciplines of reading, mathematics, and science . The Program is developed by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. The 2019 Report did not include climate change. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, uses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to compare the performance on PISA of 15-year-old students in Canada with those in other countries. Canadian results of PISA 2018 show that 45% of Canadian students know about the topic of climate change and global warming and feel they can explain the general issue, and that 42% of Canadian students indicate that they can explain climate change well. The PISA report found that differences in students’ knowledge between provinces were minimal.
The Government of Canada undertakes several other surveys to measure climate change awareness. For example, according to the draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2022–2026), research from Environment and Climate Change Canada shows an increase in “Knowledge and awareness of climate change, environmental and nature conservation topics; the perception that individual actions have a positive impact on environmental change; and actions taken to help fight climate change, conserve nature and achieve a cleaner and safer environment.” (p. 47) At the time of this review, the survey mentioned in the Strategy was not publicly available.
The Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring Program is a 10-year program launched in 2018. Under the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the Program receives US$ 4.6 million (CAD 6 million) each year for community-led projects to monitor the effects of climate change on communities and Indigenous territories. The Program also supports access to tools and best practices, enhances collaboration and coordination among initiatives, and supports Indigenous participation in program oversight of projects funded within the Program focus on communication and education.
Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change (2020) states that
Increasing collaboration with Indigenous communities and organizations in monitoring projects will improve the quality and quantity of data collected, especially given the critical and unique nature of the knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples regarding their local environment and climate change impacts. Community based science activities can also provide surveillance data while increasing education, awareness, and engagement to empower individuals in acting on climate change. (p. 40)
The Climate Science 2050 report further calls for more monitoring of climate change in Canada on a general level, including the reactions of local governments toward extreme climate events.
Looking at the Canadian population more generally, the Canada Climate Change and Education report (2019) found that 79% of Canadians are concerned about climate change. However, “While 51% of Canadians feel they are well-informed about climate change, only 14% correctly answered 8, 9, or 10 out of 10 basic knowledge questions. 86% indicated that they need more information on climate change.” (p. 7). This shows a considerable discrepancy between awareness and knowledge.
ii. MECCE Project Monitoring
The Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Communication and Education (MECCE) Project was unable to examine Canada’s National Curriculum Framework and Education Sector Plan for references to ‘climate change,’ ‘environment,’ ‘sustainability,’ and ‘biodiversity’ because education is a provincial responsibility in Canada and no overarching federal frameworks or plans exist.
This section will be updated as the MECCE Project develops.
This profile was reviewed by:
Geneviève Therriault, PhD, Full Professor, Holder of the Research Chair in Environmental Education and Sustainable Development, Université du Québec à Rimouski, Canada
Patrick Charland, PhD, Full professor, Co-Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in Curriculum Development, UQAM, Québec, Canada
Liliane Dionne, PhD, Full professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada
Kaia Counter, ACE Focal Point, Canada
Ellen Field, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University
Sylvie Duong, Senior Analyst, Council of Ministers of Education, Canada
Brennen Jenkins, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, Council of Ministers of Education, Canada
Adolfo Agundez-Rodriguez, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Sherbrooke, Canada
Thanks to the Permanent Delegation of Canada to UNESCO for its follow-up with the Government of Canada and the provinces.