Global environmental sustainability depends on intact and healthy ecosystems. However, many of the Earth's ecosystems have been stressed or degraded, some to the point where they cannot recover.
The poor, who depend most directly on their natural environment for food, shelter, and income, are the first to feel the effects of environmental deterioration. Forced to live on marginal lands, the poor are at greatest risk from external factors such as climate change. Without financial resources or the knowledge to manage vulnerable resources in a sustainable way, they are often forced to degrade their lands in order to survive, thus contributing to the problem and perpetuating their poverty.
The global community has been collaborating to preserve the environment for more than 30 years, reaching agreements and achieving some progress in key areas such as carbon emissions, desertification, organic pollutants, and biodiversity. As a party to the related conventions, Canada is obligated to help its developing country partners implement them.
Increasing environmental sustainability is one of Canada's crosscutting themes for international development and a Millennium Development Goal.
Canada assesses all of its development assistance activities for potential risks and opportunities with respect to environmental sustainability and works with its partner countries to ensure that they have the capacity to do the same. This includes enhancing partners' abilities to manage natural resources and address issues like desertification and climate change.
The nine countries bordering the Nile River have united to manage their shared resource collectively, giving special attention to environment, watershed management, communications, energy, and institutional capacity building. Canadian companies are sharing clean production technology with industries in China and Honduras. Communities from Guyana to Senegal to Bangladesh are improving their local environment, building their capacity to adapt to climate change, and creating sustainable sources of income.
These initiatives and many more are being supported by CIDA to help its partners manage their natural resources, adopt appropriate, environmentally friendly technology, and prepare for natural disasters.
Ecosystems play a decisive role in maintaining health, food security, economic growth, and social peace. Environmental sustainability-the ability of communities of plants, animals, micro-organisms, and their non-living surroundings to sustain themselves, and people, far into the future-depends on intact and healthy ecosystems. However, the natural resources that ecosystems provide-such as potable water and local food sources-have been compromised and phenomena such as climate change and natural disasters are compounding these problems.
The connection between the physical environment and survival is most direct for the poor, who contribute positively to the environment through indigenous knowledge and practices that protect natural resources:
The international community has been collaborating to preserve the environment for more than 30 years. Canada played a major role in negotiating a number of important international agreements, including:
As a party to these conventions, Canada also helps developing country partners implement them. Ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the Millennium Development Goals) (Goal 7). It is also fundamental to achieving the other goals. These agreements underscore the connection between poverty, equity, and environmental sustainability and the need for countries to work together to address global environmental issues.
Canada has identified environmental sustainability as a programming priority in Canada's development cooperation program.
Environment is also systematically integrated into all aspects of its development work. CIDA's approach is to help its partner countries create, maintain, and enhance environmental sustainability, particularly in relation to:
CIDA will also work to strengthen global environmental agreements and build the capacity of its partners to implement them. In addition, CIDA will continue to implement its legal obligations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the 1999 Cabinet Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment to help ensure that environmental considerations remain a fundamental aspect of development work undertaken by the Agency and its development partners.
Equality Between Women and Men is integrated into all activities supporting environmental sustainability to ensure that women have equal access to resources and to decision making.