Understanding the Goals and Accomplishments of Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Updated: May 31, 2020

Following the recent 2019 Federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Member of Parliament Jonathan Wilkinson as the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, replacing the former minister, Catherine McKenna (1, 2). While holding this position, Catherine McKenna focused on initiatives, such as carbon tax, investing in cleaner technology, and protection of the Ottawa River (3). McKenna was also one of the leading Ministers involved in Canada’s pledged single-use plastics ban, expected to take place by 2021 (4).

The title ‘Minister of Environment’ is now known as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change,’ as change which took place in 2015 when Catherine McKenna took up the position under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (5, 6). The addition of the term climate change to the title coincides with Prime Minister Trudeau’s promise to make climate change a priority within his government (6). The expectations for this position, as outlined by Prime Minister Trudeau, include “implementing the whole-of-government plan for climate action, a cleaner environment and a sustainable economy” (1). In accordance with the Paris Agreement, the expectation for Canada is to lower our greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below the levels of 2005 by 2030 (7), a goal which was originally announced by Leona Aglukkaq while they held the position of Minster of Environment (5). According to the 2019 Emissions Gap Report, Canada is one of a multitude of G20 countries who are expected to miss their emissions targets (8). This expectation set out aims to accomplish Canada’s targets set for 2030 and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (1).

The Prime Minister has also set out additional tasks for the Minister to accomplish based on the core elements of Environment and Climate Change Canada, focusing on protection of ecosystems and citizens based on the changes to our climate (1). If you’re interested in reading more about the responsibilities of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, click here for the full mandate letter written by the Prime Minister.

With ambitious goals for the Minister to attain in the upcoming years, this document will be continuously updated to monitor the progress and ensure accountability of the current government.


1. https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/minister-environment-and-climate-change-mandate-letter

2. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-liberal-cabinet-mckenna-1.3303468\

3. https://www.canada.ca/en/government/ministers/catherine-mckenna.html

4. https://cmckenna.liberal.ca/biography/

5. https://www.canada.ca/en/news/archive/2015/05/minister-aglukkaq-travel-berlin-attend-international-climate-meetings.html

6. https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/trudeau-government-renames-key-departments-1.2646008

7. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/progress-towards-canada-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-target.html

8. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30798/EGR19ESEN.pdf?sequence=13

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Shake Up The Establishment is a youth-led, registered (#1190975-4) national non-partisan non-profit organization that operates within the geographical confines of what is currently known as "Canada", but what is referred to by its First Peoples, as Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have inhabited Turtle Island for over 10,000 years, and were the sole inhabitants less than 500 years ago. We acknowledge that our address resides on Treaty 3 land, and is the traditional territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. Turtle Island is still home to many Indigenous peoples and we at SUTE are thankful to be able to live, learn and work on this territory, whilst continuing to create meaningful change for the climate justice movement. We are aware that our actions as an organization and the work we put out have an impact on our land, and on all that inhabit it. We are humbled to be able to follow the lead of centuries long Indigenous-led efforts towards the protection and stewardship of this land and the people that inhabit it. We are committed to continually evaluating & decolonizing our practices, and we do our best to incorporate the lived experiences of the land defenders and protectors within our work. We also want to honour the voices of Black, and non-Black people of colour within our work, and continually recognize their resiliency in the face of years of systemic oppression as imposed by the Canadian state.


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