In December 2012, Canada became the first signatory nation to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Accord, an agreement between nations to limit and reduce greenhouse gases. This follows a long line of negative global publicity that the Canadian government has taken when it comes to global environmental issues. In reading and researching Canada’s role as an environmental advocate, it can become disheartening, however, Canada is not just sitting back and doing nothing.
In this article, we explore what Canada is doing when it comes to several key areas of the environment. Instead of focusing on the negative, we want to know, what role is Canada taking domestically and internationally to deal with environmental issues and climate change? How are these initiatives being achieved? Have they had any success? In this piece, we dig deeper to find those areas of environmental action that are positive!
The quality of Canada’s air has long been something to be proud of, especially with the amount of wilderness Canada has. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) was established in 2005 in order to help people understand how air quality can affect their health and how to protect themselves from long term damage. This is a scale between 1 and 10 can be easily found with real time information. The risk level varies from low (1) to high (10+) and the index provides information on who is most at risk during that time.
The AQHI was established to do much more than provide information to people, it also provides information to researchers and government organizations. This allows them to trend air quality patterns in order to understand how Canadian air changes over time, which regions of the country are worst, and what can be done about it.
As per the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, all industries are required to provide reports on their air pollution. This is done through the Environment Canada and is made available for Canadians through the National Pollutant Release Inventory. As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Canada is also required to make this information available to the UN.
In 2009, Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord, where reduction targets in greenhouse gases were set for 17% below 2005 levels. This is to be reached by 2020. In order to reach this goal, several initiatives are required in multiple industries, regions of the country, and in the changing of societal views. The government of Canada has contributed to several individual projects, such as carbon capture and storage at the Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan to a mandate for all gasoline to have 5% minimum renewable fuel.
The majority of Canada’s contributions are based in investments and the funding of individual programs; however, legislative changes have occurred as well. In late 2010, Canada supported the Cancun Agreement on climate change as well as the Durban Platform in late 2011. All in all, between 2005 and 2010, the Canadian economy grew 6.3% while greenhouse gas emissions fell 6.5%. As of August 2012, Canada reached the halfway mark of attaining their goal as stated in the Copenhagen Accord.
Canada’s Environmental Enforcement Act became active in late 2010 and serves three purposes. First, it has consolidated six previous acts into one bill for more rapid and efficient act of the law. Second, it has amended fines and sentencing guidelines to become more stringent and deterrent based. Finally, through this Act, Canada has created partnerships within domestic enforcement agencies and with those around the world including the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Interpol in order to crack down on larger scale acts of environmental polluting or terrorism.
In late 2012, a survey was initiated by the Government of Canada through the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. As in other Canadian initiatives, the government is working towards an understanding of what Canadians know about the areas of wilderness in the country. This includes understanding personal leisure behaviours such as camping, hunting, and fishing in both urban and rural areas.
Canada’s goal on biodiversity is to protect habits and species within them. This is managed in conjunction with enabling our wilderness areas to be accessible to those who choose to use them and experience their beauty under what is known as Access and Benefit sharing. Canada’s signing of the Convention of Biological Diversity is meant to protect natural habits for specifically this purpose, especially as biotechnology companies increase pressure on governments to extract from these areas.
Pollution and Waste
In 2012, Canada released a study that examined pollution in the air, water, and land between 2006 and 2010. Through reduction policies that target the manufacturing sector and natural resource industries, total pollutant annual releases have decreased 19% during this period. The Federal Action Plan of Pollution Prevention also has worked with specific large corporations in finding ways for them to reduce pollution to the environment while maintaining business sustainability.
Science and Technology
Canada is constantly investing is all areas of science and technology in order to preserve and maintain environmental goals. While their involvement in this area is not direct, their funding of private programs has had a significant impact on the betterment of Canada’s environment. Projects that have received funding include:
- $281 million for clean energy,
- $500 million in helping new construction projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and
- $1.2 billion for environmental development in developing nations.
What is even more positive about Canada’s investment strategy is that it is truly global. By investing in developing nations, Canada is helping others to benefit from new and emerging technologies.
Sustainable development has become one of the main components of any environmental strategy, whether you are an individual or a government. This means acting based on the needs of today without sacrificing future generations. On June 16, 2011, Canada released its first ever Progress Report on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy. This was the first step as outlined in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, passed in 2010, to show what is needed to be done in Canada in terms of setting up a foundation for sustainable development.
This is an area that is still in its infancy stages in Canada. However, the Act and subsequent report shows that action is being taken to outline areas of need. Movement towards individual implementation plans have not yet occurred but are underway.
Protecting Canada’s fresh water is not just a domestic issue; it is a global issue. Canada has over 7% of the entire world’s fresh water reserves, the most out of any single country. We are also the only nation to border three separate oceans, which means a necessary action plan for these as well.
Canada has constructed more than 3,000 sites across the country that measures our waterways for physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. The goal is to know about any changes immediately so that action can be taken if issues arise. This is a part of the Action Plan for Clean Water.
The Oceans Action Plan sets out to protect our oceans and all marine species contains within them. Right now, we are in Phase I of this plan. This is meant to deal with issues of overfishing, international management, and the creation of specific action plans for regions including the Scotian Shelf, Pacific North Coast, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and many more. Once the research has been completed (a 2 year project), work can begin on sustainable development, protection, and preservation.
Canada’s Future Role in the Environment
Canada will continue to adhere to its goals as set in the Copenhagen Accord. While the nation has just passed the halfway mark toward reaching emissions of 17% below 2005 levels, there is still much work to do before the 2020 deadline. This will involve more investment into technologies and initiatives in the private sector. Canada’s Environmental Emergencies Fund, established from fines taken from enforcement policing, is also helping to deal with unaccounted for events in order to mitigate or minimize environmental concerns.
The majority of policies and initiatives mentioned here are in their stages of infancy. Most are within two years old and have only have initial planning stages completed. It will remain interesting to see how implementation takes place and what its effects will be!