Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Ensure Environmental Sustainability (MDG 7)


  • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and program and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
  • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
  • Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
  • Achieve, by 2010, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.


The effects of environmental degradation and climate change threaten the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The poor in developing countries are especially vulnerable and the least able to adapt to the effects of environmental degradation. There have been only modest improvements and many setbacks in meeting the targets of this goal. Progress on this MDG is extremely varied both in terms of geographic region and individual targets. Global deforestation—mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land—is slowing, but it continues at a high rate in many countries. Greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change continue to increase, which causes more extreme weather events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, floods, and landslides. These conditions leave the developing world the most vulnerable.

The MDG target of achieving a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million who live in poverty-stricken areas has been met. Between 2000 and 2010 more than 200 million people in developing countries living in poor areas received access to improved water sources, sanitation facilities, durable housing, or sufficient living space. Improvements to these areas are not keeping up with the growing number of urban poor: the number of urban residents living in poor areas increased from 767 million in 2000 to 863 million in 2012.

Even though the world met the MDG safe drinking water target in 2010, five years ahead of schedule, 768 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water, with 83 percent of them living in rural areas. Deforestation continues relatively unstopped, and biodiversity continues to decline. Greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change continue to increase, and there is increased migration to urban areas, threatening the modest progress made in reducing the number of urban slums.

Canada's contribution

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 support includes enhancing partners' abilities to manage natural resources and address issues such as desertification and climate change. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) protects and enhances biodiversity through its food security programming by supporting sustainable seed banks and agricultural research. During the last five years, the former Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), now part of DFATD, spent close to $1.18 billion for environmental sustainability in developing countries, and $21 million each year for biodiversity. CIDA increased its annual spending for water supply and sanitation in developing countries from $45 million in 2001–2002 to $93.8 million in 2012–2013, and has committed $238.4 million over a four-year period from 2010 to 2014 to the Global Environment Facility, a 50-percent increase from previous contributions.

Contributions from Canada and its partners

A smilling young boy holding on to a tree © ACDI-CIDA/Pierre St-Jacques

Stronger capacity to address global environmental challenges: In Haiti, with Canada’s support, the United Nations Development Programme is helping communes in the Nord-Est department (district) to build resilience in the face of climate change. As of 2011, thanks to better management practices, communities are saving around 10 percent of their budget for maintaining and operating new equipment provided by the project. Watershed development, soil conservation, and reforestation are all helping reduce soil erosion and vulnerability to flooding.

Improved community conservation and increased access to safe water and sanitation: Canada is providing the African Development Bank with $36 million to strengthen water supply and sanitation in rural areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa. As of June 2011 the project had provided 33.54 million people with access to clean drinking water and 21.29 million with access to sanitation services. It has also built the capacity of local governments and communities in 19 countries to manage water services more effectively, including the establishment of some 39,000 water, sanitation, and hygiene education committees.

Enhanced management of natural resources: In Ethiopia, Canada supports a food-for-work program run by the World Food Programme that allows participating households to receive food rations in return for working on initiatives such as tree planting and building structures to reduce soil erosion and retain water. To date, Canada has enabled more than 149,000 farmers to rehabilitate agricultural land. Overall, the project successfully supported natural resource management, increasing productivity in food-insecure communities, and building household and community resilience to unforeseen setbacks.