This page has been archived on the Web

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Skip booklet index and go to page content

ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for Period April 1999 to March 2000

Part V: International Air Pollution

International Air Pollution (CEPA Sections 61-65)

Part V authorizes the control of domestic sources of air contaminants that create air pollution in other countries or that violate international agreements.

Canada plays a lead role on the international stage in seeking international cooperation and agreements on measures to control air pollution. This is because, due to global wind patterns and a cold climate, many more pollutants arrive in Canada by air and remain here than leave from here by air. To protect the Canadian environment, it is therefore essential not only to control domestic sources of air pollution, but also to participate in efforts to ensure that other countries control their air pollution as well.

Work under Part V of CEPA includes both international work and work within Canada, with provincial and territorial governments and multistakeholder groups, toward meeting national pollution prevention goals and international commitments.

Persistent Organic Pollutants and Heavy Metals

On June 24, 1998, Canada and 31 other countries signed the POPs and HMs Protocols under the UN ECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. Canada was the first country to ratify both protocols, on December 18, 1998.

The POPs Protocol addresses the production, use and atmospheric emission of 16 persistent organic pollutants through multiple control regimes. The HMs Protocol requires the control of cadmium, lead and mercury by:

  • controlling atmospheric emissions from new plants in designated industrial sectors,
  • reducing atmospheric emissions from existing facilities by 50% of 1990 levels, and
  • controlling the lead content in gasoline and the mercury content in alkaline batteries.

In June 1998, Canada hosted the first round of international negotiations for a global POPs agreement under the United Nations Environment Programme. Canada's objective is to obtain a commitment from countries around the world to undertake appropriate control actions on POPs. Negotiations are expected to be completed by December 2000.

In March 1999, Environment Canada and its provincial and territorial counterparts held multistakeholder consultations on a proposed Strategic Implementation Framework for International Commitments on Hazardous Air Pollutants. The Strategic Implementation Framework describes the set of programs and measures that Canada will use to tackle the issue of POP and HM releases in Canada.

In addition to these international initiatives, Canada is working in a continental context with the United States and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement's Commission on Environmental Cooperation to develop and implement regional action plans on DDT, chlordane, PCBs and mercury. (On June 30, 2000, the three countries signed a regional action plan on mercury. Initiation of regional action plans have been approved for lindane, as well as for dioxins, furans and HCB.)

Bilaterally, Canada is also working with the United States under the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy to reduce emissions of POPs and HMs in the Great Lakes Basin.

Sulphur Dioxide

Although sulphur dioxide emissions continued to drop throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the actual deposition of wet sulphate is still above critical load levels in some regions. The critical load for aquatic ecosystems is the amount of wet sulphate deposition that must not be exceeded in order to protect at least 95% of lakes in a region from acidifying to a pH level of less than 6.0. Many studies suggest that a pH of at least 6.0 is needed to protect most aquatic organisms.

Canada has been successful at meeting the national caps set for sulphur dioxide emissions, largely as a result of the Eastern Canada Acid Rain Program, which capped provincial sulphur dioxide emissions in the seven easternmost provinces. Some western provinces have also set stringent emission requirements on major new sources, such as natural gas plants, to minimize increases in emissions. However, even with full implementation of these programs and the United States Acid Rain Program by 2010, ecosystems in eastern Canada will continue to receive harmful levels of acid deposition. Further action was necessary; so, in October 1998, 26 federal, provincial and territorial ministers of energy and environment signed the Canada-wide Acid Rain Strategy for Post-2000. As part of the implementation strategy, targets and schedules for further reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions will be developed for eastern Canada by the end of the year 2000.

Eastern Canada Emissions of Sulphur Dioxide

Nitrogen Oxides

Canada is committed, pursuant to the 1988 UN-ECE Nitrogen Oxide Protocol, to freeze national emissions of nitrogen oxides at 1987 levels and continued to meet this commitment in 1999-2000.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Canada signed the UN-ECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution in 1979. The third protocol to be negotiated under the Convention was a protocol to control and reduce VOCs, completed and signed in 1991. It is unlikely that Canada will ever ratify the VOC protocol now that the UN-ECE Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone (AEGLO) has been completed and signed in 1999. This agreement also requires parties to control and reduce VOC but the protocol's main goal is the reduction of ground-level ozone. The implementation of the Canada-wide Standard for Ozone and the negotiation and signature of an agreement with the United States to reduce transboundary ground-level ozone are expected to fulfill the domestic requirements for Canada set out in the AEGLO protocol. Canada is expecting to ratify this protocol by 2002.

International Air Quality Agreements and Protocols

Canada/United States

  • Air Quality Agreement (1991)
    • basis for commitments to control acid rain: sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions
    • agreement to negotiate a new annex to address ground-level ozone through controls on emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
    • agreement to cooperate on joint technical analysis of transboundary fine inhalable particles leading to negotiation of another annex to the Agreement

Canada/United States/Mexico

  • Regional action plans on DDT, chlordane, PCBs and mercury


  • UN-ECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution
    • two Sulphur Dioxide Protocols (1985 and 1994)
    • Nitrogen Oxide Protocol (1988)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1991)
    • Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (1998)
    • Heavy Metals (HMs) (1998)
  • NEW: Acidification, Eutrophication, Ground-level Ozone (1999)


  • Vienna Convention on the Ozone Layer and Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987)
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (1997)
  • Action Plan with rules and mechanisms to implement the Protocol (1998)

Ozone-depleting Substances (ODS)

Amendments to the Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations were drafted in the winter of 2000. These amendments include control measures to implement additional requirements under the Montreal Protocol and meet Canada's domestic commitments under the Ozone Layer Protection Program. Publication of the amendments in the Canada Gazette, Part II, is planned by the end of 2000.

In January 2000, the Federal–Provincial Working Group on Ozone-depleting Substances and Halocarbon Alternatives issued a proposed strategy to accelerate the phase-out of remaining uses of CFCs and halons and ensure proper disposal of surplus stocks. Consultation sessions were held in various centres in Canada during February 2000 with a view to having a strategy ready for endorsement by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment in the fall of 2000.

Under the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund, Canada received approval to undertake projects to assist developing countries phase out ODS in Chile, Jamaica, Uruguay, Belize, Cuba and Burkina Faso. Most of these projects are focused on providing training and equipment to facilitate the phase-out of CFCs used in refrigeration and air conditioning. Among the key activities relating to these and other approved Canadian bilateral projects was a workshop in Jamaica to train customs officials on the methods used to identify and manage ODS at the border. The workshop, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, was important because, as one of the first of its kind, it set the blueprint for other such workshops that will take place throughout the developing world over the next few years. Ensuring that the world's customs officials are well trained to prevent illegal trade in ODS is key to the successful implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

Ozone above the earth, in the stratosphere, is beneficial, protecting the Earth's environment from the sun's damaging rays. That's why we worry about holes in the ozone layer and are taking action to control the ozone-depleting substances that contribute to the deterioration of the ozone layer.

Ozone at ground level, on the other hand, is detrimental to the Earth's environment, affecting the quality of the air we breathe and contributing to the greenhouse effect. Ground-level ozone is not beneficial, and so we are taking steps to control its presence.

Canada-wide Standards

In January 1998, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), except Quebec, endorsed a Canada-wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization and the Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances. Federal-provincial-territorial development committees have been working on a number of Canada-wide Standards. The Canada-wide Standards for particulate matter, ozone, benzene phase 1, and mercury emissions were endorsed by the CCME in June 2000. Work continues on others, such as dioxins and furans, petroleum hydrocarbons in soil and mercury in products, to be approved by the CCME in spring 2001.

Voluntary Initiatives -- Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)

MOUs -- Manufacturers of Recreational Marine Engines, Utility Engines, Diesel Off-road Engines

As part of its non-regulatory approach to environmental protection, Environment Canada has developed MOUs with industry groups representing manufacturers of recreational marine engines, utility engines (for example, chainsaws and lawn mowers) and diesel off-road engines (for example, construction and agricultural equipment) to voluntarily supply cleaner engines to the Canadian market. The MOUs were developed to secure near-term environmental benefits by fast-tracking the introduction into Canada of the same cleaner, less-polluting engines designed to comply with U.S. federal emissions standards.

During 1999-2000, MOUs were signed with manufacturers of recreational marine engines, handheld utility engines (for example, string trimmers and chainsaws) and diesel off-road engines. These agreements are to come into effect in 2000 and 2001.

MOU -- Automotive Sector

In 1992, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, the Government of Ontario and Environment Canada joined together to launch a major pollution prevention initiative for the Big Three automotive manufacturers, representing 28 Canadian assembly and parts manufacturing plants. Key environmental teams set to work designing pollution prevention plans aimed at reducing and/or eliminating the use, generation and release of 65 targeted substances. Over the years, these plans have realized major gains in overall environmental performance in areas as varied as waste reduction, recycling, reuse, and the elimination of the targeted substances.

Individual companies are engaged in efforts to reduce pollution at source. Each company is looking to minimize the environmental impact of its operations by utilizing more energy-efficient paint application technology that reduces VOCs emissions; by incorporating state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facilities; and by putting in place solid waste, used solvent and oil recycling programs. The plan is fully supportive of the Canada–U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and complements the ARET program.

The Automotive Pollution Prevention MOU was renewed by the three major partners in 1999.

MOU -- Railway Sector

In 1995, Environment Canada negotiated an MOU with the Railway Association of Canada to voluntarily cap nitrogen oxide emissions at 115 000 tonnes per annum, approximately 9% of all nitrogen oxide emissions in the transportation sector. Continued attention is being paid to emissions from this sector. (A report on annual emissions was released in December 2000.)

Date modified: