Work had been underway for a decade or more to improve air quality in Canada. However, as scientific evidence demonstrates that more and quicker action is necessary, the ten-year Clean Air Agenda was developed and launched in May 2000. It focuses on five key areas:
Additional areas of air-related work not included in the Agenda, such as Acid Rain, are included in this backgrounder.
Good progress is occurring. Milestones have been achieved in every area of the Agenda. In June 2000, the Canada-wide Standards (CWSs) for Particulate Matter (PM) and Ozone were endorsed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). These standards set new ambient targets for these two pollutants to be achieved by the year 2010.
In December 2000, Canada signed an Ozone Annex Agreement with the United States, which committed each nation to reduce its emission of ozone-forming substances (nitrogen oxide [NOX] and volatile organic compounds [VOCs]).
In February 2001, the Minister announced an investment of $120.2 million over four years to deliver on the Canadian Ozone Annex commitments.
In December 2000, Canada signed an Ozone Annex Agreement with the United States, which committed each nation to reduce its emission of ozone-forming substances (NOX, VOCs). The U.S. commitments will result in an estimated ozone season reduction in the U.S. transboundary ozone region from the 1990 levels of 35 percent by 2007 and 43 percent by 2010 for NOx, and in an estimated reduction of 39 percent by 2007 and of 36 percent by 2010 for VOCs.
This will reduce significantly the flow of pollutants from the U.S. into Canada.
On January 6, 2003, Canada and the U.S. announced a joint commitment to build on the transborder air quality improvements of the last decade by starting work to develop new cooperative projects for the years ahead. This initiative is early action on the 2002 Speech from the Throne commitment to work with the U.S. to further improve air quality and work for a healthy environment.
These projects will serve as a foundation for developing new strategies to improve air quality and address transboundary air pollution of concern to Canadians and Americans and will be completed in cooperation with provincial, state and other stakeholders. In June 2003, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation – North American Air Working Group was established. This group aims to facilitate cooperation on air issues among representatives from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
In June 2004 a meeting in Quebec City between Canada and the U.S. took place. Presentations at the meeting demonstrated that both countries are meeting specific obligations under the Annex. Stakeholders representing environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), health NGOs, and industry joined states and representatives of provinces and federal governments from both countries to review and comment on progress.
On the basis of sound science completed by a joint Canada-U.S. science team, Minister Dion and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Leavitt endorsed, on August 17, 2004, a recommendation to consider a future negotiation of an annex to the 1001 Air Quality Agreement to address transboundary particulate matter or PM. Such a negotiation could occur as early as 2006.
The Government has announced a ten-year Plan of Action for cleaner vehicles, engines and fuels. The Plan of Action will align emission standards with those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and will result in a 90 percent reduction in vehicle emission for new cars in the period 2004 to 2007.
A number of actions have already been taken in recent years by the federal government to improve air quality to benefit the health of Canadians. These measures include the:
Air pollution and climate change share common sources. The combustion of fossil fuels – most prevalent in the transportation, electric power generation and oil and gas sectors are responsible for 70 percent of total greenhouse gas and a significant portion of NOX, SOX and PM emission. Public outreach initiatives, such as the One Tonne Challenge, offer an important opportunity to pursue complementary approaches. Through individual, community and industry leaders involved in the implementation of the Clean Air Agenda, linkages with climate change programs can be made.
The various substances we introduce to the atmosphere interact in complex ways producing effects we label as acid rain, air pollution or climate change. Understanding these interactions is critical to anticipating and adapting to the net effects on people and ecosystems and to developing appropriate mitigative measures. In addition to the atmospheric science research and monitoring programs conducted by the Meteorological Service of Canada, the Government of Canada has provided $110M in funding to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science to improve our understanding of these related issues.
On December 17, 2002, the Government of Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Shortly before the ratification, the Climate Change Plan for Canada was released. The Plan's actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will also help achieve Canada's clean air goals. Greenhouse gas reductions should have added benefits of reduced emissions of PM, NOx and SO2 from emitters like thermal electricity plants, refineries and pulp and paper mills, reducing traffic congestion in our cities and reducing emissions from homes and buildings.