The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Global Climate Change: Rethinking Significance

  • Toby Kruger


Environmental assessments conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act turn on the key finding of whether a proposed project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Despite the importance of “signifcance” in the assessment process, the lack of objective criteria to determine when the threshold of significant has been reached in the greenhouse gas emissions context has made the process ineffective. This prevents meaningful judicial review and the regulatory scheme from properly confronting climate change. The article examines how significance might be objectified under the current regulatory and government policy framework, including the possibility of establishing benchmarks, assessing relative significance by comparing the proposal to alternatives, and the use of mitigation strategies.