CCME was established in 1964 and is composed of the environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments.
The role of President of CCME rotates among the 14 ministers of environment on an annual basis. These 14 ministers normally meet at least once a year to discuss national environmental priorities and determine work to be carried out under the auspices of CCME.
Ministers set the strategic direction for the Council, setting out the broad outcomes they seek to achieve. Deputy ministers and senior officials establish working groups of experts from the federal, provincial, and territorial environmental ministries to work collaboratively to accomplish specific goals, with the support of a permanent secretariat based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
CCME is supported financially and in kind by the environment departments of the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Canada, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
CCME’s core operating principles are:
- Ministerial direction: The organization functions under the direction of Ministers.
- Issues of concern to CCME members: The agenda is made up of issues that are Canada-wide, international and intergovernmental in nature, and of interest to a significant portion of CCME member governments/regions.
- Results-based: CCME focuses on achieving environmental results through cooperative action.
- Consensus decision-making: The organization employs consensus decision-making.
- Accountability: Each Minister remains responsible to act and to be held accountable within his or her jurisdiction. The responsibility for implementing any decision of CCME rests with elected governments.
- Commitment to action: governments will work cooperatively and with a commitment to take action within their areas of jurisdiction on agreed-upon approaches to environmental matters.
- Openness and transparency: CCME will provide information to the public in a timely fashion and undertake appropriate consultations, providing for the meaningful participation in jurisdictions of stakeholders and Indigenous Peoples. Each Minister shall be responsible for public consultation within his or her own jurisdiction.
- Partnerships: CCME will use a partnership approach among jurisdictions, while recognizing their individual competence and diverse experience, to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
- Sustainable Development: CCME decision-making and jurisdictional action plans will take into account environmental, economic and social considerations.
- Regular review and assessment. CCME will regularly review the results and effectiveness of its work to ensure that it continues to meet Ministers' needs and priorities.