Greater Than the Sum of its Parts
How a whole-of-government approach to climate change can improve Canada's climate performance
Climate change is a complex, cross-jurisdictional issue that requires societal transformation. To meet this challenge, governments must be able to make climate policies that work across sectors, communities, and regional borders. A whole-of-government approach can help to mainstream climate change into policy-making processes.
Effective climate policies that get Canada where it needs to go will require the active involvement of departments as disparate as Finance, Infrastructure, Transport, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Employment and Social Development, and others. This broad reach necessitates a coordinated approach to ensure the coherent implementation of a climate strategy.
Whole-of-government approaches to climate change have become a feature of some national and subnational governments over the last several years, as countries commit to increasingly ambitious measures to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change, and pursue clean growth strategies. An integrated, coordinated, cross-departmental approach can leverage departmental expertise, reduce policy redundancies, mainstream climate change into all decision making, and create cross-departmental synergies for more effective climate governance.
In this paper, eight countries were surveyed to identify whole-of-government structures and processes dedicated to climate change, and three of these cases (the United Kingdom, British Columbia, and the United States) were analyzed in-depth to determine the benefits and risks of such an approach. Five lessons can be learned for implementing a cohesive and effective whole-of-government approach to climate change:
- The success of a whole-of-government climate initiative depends on sustained executive leadership directing departmental priorities and interdepartmental coordination.
- An effective whole-of-government climate initiative requires adequate funding, a clear mandate, and the capacity to enact change across departments.
- An effective whole-of-government climate initiative requires effective and empowered personnel acting in whole-of-government structures.
- The mandates of participating departments must align or be brought into alignment with the mandate of the whole-of-government climate initiative.
- A whole-of-government climate initiative should report publicly on its progress and be as transparent as possible about its deliberations, findings, and research.
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