Canada moves to improve air quality

Lake Louise – October 11, 2012 – Federal, provincial and territorial Environment Ministers are taking further action to protect the health of Canadians and the environment with measures to improve air quality in Canada, through a comprehensive new Air Quality Management System (AQMS). A flexible approach to implementation will assist jurisdictions to ensure good air quality outcomes while maintaining competitiveness in all regions of Canada.

“There is nothing more fundamental to Canadians than clean air,” said Diana McQueen, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. “The AQMS builds on measures that jurisdictions already have in place, and helps to align the actions of federal, provincial and territorial governments to deal with air quality issues.”

“The System is the result of unprecedented collaboration by governments and stakeholders over the past five years,” said McQueen, who hosted her colleagues at the annual CCME meeting. “We’re grateful for the contributions made by the hundreds of stakeholders who participated in this ground-breaking work.”

The AQMS includes:

• Standards to set the bar for outdoor air quality management across the country; • Industrial emission requirements that set a base level of performance for major industries in Canada; • A framework for air zone management within provinces and territories that enables action tailored to specific sources of air emissions in a given area; • Regional airsheds that facilitate coordinated action when air pollution crosses a border; and  • An intergovernmental working group to improve collaboration and develop a plan to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.   Governments have agreed on new standards under the AQMS for fine particulate matter and ozone, the two main components of smog. Work has also begun on new standards for sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are significant components of air pollution.

Jurisdictions, with the exception of Quebec, have agreed to begin implementing the AQMS, subject to further jurisdictional approvals. Although Quebec supports the general objectives of the AQMS, it will not implement the system since it includes federal industrial emission requirements that duplicate Quebec’s Clean Air Regulation.  However, Quebec will collaborate with jurisdictions on developing other elements of the system, notably air zones and airsheds.

Ministers will work together to finalize all elements of the AQMS.  Industrial emission requirements have been agreed to for some sectors including cement and base metal smelting, among others.   Outstanding industrial emission requirements for sectors such as petroleum refining, coal-fired electricity generation, reciprocating engines and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will be addressed through a continuing collaborative process.  A flexible approach to implementation will recognize current measures being undertaken by jurisdictions, particularly for existing facilities.   The AQMS will include monitoring and reporting of outdoor air quality conditions and emissions from major industrial sources in Canada.  The system also recognizes the substantial contributions that stakeholders and communities can make to improve air quality.  In addition, the AQMS will enable Canada to work more effectively with the United States to reduce the cross-border flow of pollution that is a contributor to air quality problems in several regions of Canada.

Ministers are pleased that three years of work with major retailers, the restaurant and food sector, brand owners and the packaging industry has led to an industry-driven approach to reduce packaging in Canada.  Industry partners commit to undertake initiatives that will reduce the amount of packaging destined for landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase recycled content in packaging. Together these initiatives will reduce Canada’s packaging footprint.

The four specific commitments by industry include: • Continuing to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from rigid plastic packaging.  PVC is a key contaminant in plastics recycling and its elimination will improve recyclability and reduce waste to landfill; • Developing a database on the current use of packaging in Canada by 2014.  These data will serve as a benchmark for industry to set future targets, timelines and reporting requirements; • Developing a voluntary packaging design guide based on Éco Entreprises Québec’s voluntary code and other international standards; and • Improving communications with the public on packaging reduction.

These commitments are supported by companies and industry associations representing a majority of the packaging sector in Canada.

Ministers today approved a Canada-wide Approach for the Management of Wastewater Biosolids. It encourages the sound management and beneficial use of biosolids resulting from municipal wastewater treatment across Canada.  Benefits include minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing nutrient and energy recovery.

Ministers also received a voluntary code of practice on residential wood burning appliances for consideration by jurisdictions.

Over the next year, CCME members will continue to work together to improve the environment by addressing water, air and waste issues. The next meeting of CCME will be hosted by Nunavut.

CCME is the primary minister-led intergovernmental forum for collective action on environmental issues of national and international concern.