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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for the Period of April 1997 to March 1998

CEPA Part V: International Air Pollution

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

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Protocols

Canada has signed two protocols for managing SO2 emissions under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Canada has met and exceeded its commitments for both protocols.

In 1996, national SO2 emissions were estimated to be 2.6 million tonnes, or 19 percent below the agreed-upon national cap of 3.2 million tonnes. Emissions southeastern Canada, referred to as the Sulphur Oxide Management Area, were estimated to be 1.25 million tonnes, or 29% below the cap set at 1.75 million tonnes for the year 2000. These emissions reductions were largely achieved as a result of the Eastern Canada Acid Rain Program, which capped provincial SO2 emissions in the seven eastern most provinces. Provincial regulations have ensured that the caps were met on time. Some western provinces also set stringent emission requirements on certain major new sources, such as natural gas plants, to minimize the growth in emissions. However, even with full implementation of both the Eastern Canada Acid Rain Program and the U.S. Acid Rain Program, Canada will continue to receive harmful levels of acid deposition. As a result, a new Canada-Wide Acid Rain Strategy for Post-2000 that will further protect the environment and human health is anticipated in 1998-1999.

Nitrogens Oxide (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Protocols

Canada signed a NOx emission protocol in 1988 pursuant to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution. The NOx protocol requires the Parties, as a first step, to freeze national emissions of NOx at 1987 levels by 1994. Canada continues to meet this commitment. A second step within the context of the Convention, is the goal of resolving acidification, ground-level ozone and eutrophication effects in Europe and North America. The completion of a Multi-Pollutant, Multi-Effects Protocol is expected in 1999.

In 1991, Canada signed a VOC protocol pursuant to the same Convention that, as a first step, commits Canada, beginning in 1997, to a freeze on VOC emissions at 1988 levels and to a 30% reduction in the Lower Fraser Valley of British Columbia as well as the Windsor-Quebec corridor. Canadian VOC emissions have declined from about 2.8 million tonnes in 1990 to less than 2.7 million tonnes in 1995. However, VOC emissions are particularly difficult to estimate accurately, and emission reductions are also difficult to document. Despite this, steady progress is being made towards achieving the commitments as all levels of government are working together with industry to achieve further VOC and NOx reductions to improve emissions inventories and projections, and to better document reductions achieved.

In the reduction of emissions of NOx, VOC and ammonia, Canada has moved to harmonize its vehicle emissions standards for on-road vehicles with those in the majority of states in the United States. Vehicle fuels are also being scrutinized for possible regulatory action. New National Emissions Guidelines have now been published for commercial and industrial boilers, for printing and for certain industrial coating operations.

National and Regional Smog Management Plans

The emissions reduction measures and NOx/VOC science program launched under the 1990 Phase 1 NOx/VOC Management Plan has now set the stage for further Canadian smog management initiatives. The Federal government published its Phase 2 Federal Smog Plan and a NOx/VOC Science Assessment in late 1997. It adds further NOx and VOC reduction measures, broadens the scope of the smog problem to include fine particulate matter and begins to integrate air pollution issues including acid rain and climate change with smog. The federal government and provinces have embarked on a new co-operative initiative to harmonize their actions on environmental management, especially for issues such as smog. This will build on a series of jurisdictional smog plans, to address the issue in conjunction with the other air pollution issues, including climate change.

Health Canada scientists focussed their research on four aspects of interaction between ambient airborne particles and ozone:

  • detailed morphometric evaluations of rat lungs exposed repeatedly to particle concentrations alone or in combination with ozone which have confirmed previous observations of increased ozone-particle synergy leading to increased rates of cell proliferation, and significant structural remodelling in lung ducts;
  • development of bio-marker technology for measuring oxidant stress in vivo (patent pending);
  • revalidation of dust atmosphere generation procedures for inclusion in standard operation procedures; and
  • standardization and characterization of a large sample of urban particles providing two grades of the urban dust that allowed the determination of the contribution of chemical composition to particle toxicity.

Work to address smog is now proceeding rapidly in response to these findings since many populated areas could be affected. This work is proceeding under a recently signed Canada-Wide Accord on Environmental Harmonization. Canada-Wide Standards for ambient particulate matter as well as ozone are also being developed under the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee.

Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement

The Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement was signed in 1991 to protect both countries from damage caused by transboundary air pollution. While the impetus for the agreement was acid rain, it provides a framework for cooperation on all transboundary air pollution issues. Canada and the United States committed to reductions in SO2 and NOx emissions and both countries have met these commitments fully.

In 1997, an agreement to develop a Joint Plan of Action Addressing Transboundary Air Pollution was signed. The intent of this agreement was to add to the Air Quality Agreement the issues of ground-level ozone and fine inhalable particles. A Progress Report on the development of the Joint Plan of Action establishes targets and a timeline of 1999 for recommendations to negotiate a new ozone annex under the Air Quality Agreement and for the creation of a joint workplan on particles.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Heavy Metals (HMs) Protocols

Negotiations were completed on protocols for POPs and HMs under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention (UN-ECE) on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The POPs Protocol addresses the control of 16 POPs substances by eliminating the production or use of 12 POPs, restricting the use of three POPs and controlling atmospheric emissions of four POPs from designated industrial sectors. Some of the POPs substances are subject to multiple control regimes.

The HMs protocol requires the control of the three metals cadmium, lead and mercury, by:

  • controlling atmospheric emissions from new plants in designated industrial sectors;
  • reducing by 50% atmospheric emissions from existing facilities (based on 1990 values); and
  • controlling lead content in gasoline and mercury content in alkaline batteries.

The completion of the POPs Protocol marks a successful conclusion in the first step of Canada’s international strategy for managing POPs. Preparations are currently underway to begin negotiations on a legally binding global agreement on POPs under UNEP. Canada’s objective is to build on the success of the regional UN-ECE agreement by obtaining a global commitment from countries to undertake appropriate control actions on POPs, focusing initially on 12 substances of concern.

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