Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions

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Canada's New Government has launched an ambitious and realistic agenda to protect the health of Canadians, to improve environmental quality, and to position Canada as a clean energy superpower. The proposed framework is comprehensive and includes mandatory and enforceable reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It also engages all Canadians to take significant, measurable action at home, in Canada.

Climate change is a global issue of major concern to Canadians. Human activities continue to increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, producing changes in the climate that are already apparent. These changes include altered wind and precipitation patterns and the increased incidence of extreme weather events, droughts, and forest fires. In addition, glacier melt and warmer oceans could lead to significant rises in sea levels. The changes could imperil the way of life of vulnerable communities around the world and here in Canada. The changes would also result in significant economic costs. It is crucial that Canada do its part to address its own contribution to global climate change.

Air pollution is a significant threat to human health and the Canadian environment. Each year, smog contributes to thousands of deaths. Other air pollution problems, such as acid deposition, threaten biodiversity, forests and fresh water ecosystems. In order to address the real concerns of Canadians suffering from the health effects of air pollution, and to clean up Canada's environment, the government must act to reduce emissions of air pollutants.

Addressing these challenges in a coordinated way will require nothing short of a complete transformation in the capital stock of energy producing and consuming businesses and households across Canada. While cooperation among all orders of government will be required, the Government of Canada is uniquely situated to provide the leadership on this issue that will be required to meet the challenge in a cost effective manner in order to ensure the continued competitiveness of the Canadian economy. This transformation will not be achieved through the sum of different and potentially conflicting provincial plans, or by setting up rules for industry that vary from one area of the country to another. The government's Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, along with other initiatives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, will provide a nationally-consistent approach.

In October 2006, the government published a Notice of Intent1 to regulate air emissions, which provides the basis for the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda. This technical paper sets out in detail the architecture of the regulatory framework, including short-term industrial emission-reduction targets.

The Clean Air Regulatory Agenda is the cornerstone of the government's efforts to address the challenges of climate change and air pollution. With this regulatory framework, Canada will have one of the most stringent sets of regulated targets for industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in the world.

These regulations will have real, tangible health and environmental benefits for Canadians, and these benefits, in turn, will have positive economic effects. A robust regulatory system will also promote technological investment and innovation in Canada, yielding long-term economic benefits from enhanced productivity, improved energy efficiency, greater competitiveness, and more opportunity to sell Canadian products and knowhow abroad.

That said, strong regulation will inevitably come at a cost – and those costs will be borne, at least in part, by individual Canadians and their families. Consumer products, including cars and home appliances, could become more expensive. Electricity and fuel prices may rise. All Canadians must be prepared to bear this extra responsibility in order to get the job done.

In implementing the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, the government will work with provincial and territorial governments, industry, environmental and health groups, scientists, municipalities, communities, and individual Canadians. These partnerships will ensure that all segments of Canadian society have the opportunities to reduce air emissions and achieve a cleaner, healthier Canada for current and future generations.

The government is also taking other action. In the last Speech from the Throne, the government committed to "take measures to achieve tangible improvements in our environment, including reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions". Budget 2006 allocated $1.9 billion to initiatives that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean up the air Canadians breathe, including:

In addition, in December 2006, the government announced two key environmental measures. The first was the new Chemicals Management Plan, which takes immediate action to regulate chemicals that are harmful to human health or the environment. Canada was the first country in the world to categorize 23,000 legacy chemical substances. This action has allowed the government to move forward to ensure that chemical substances are handled safely. The government has challenged industry to provide the government with information on how they are safely handling 200 high-priority chemical substances. The government has committed $300 million over four years to implement the Chemicals Management Plan.

The government also announced that it would require fuel producers and importers to have an average annual renewable content of at least five percent of the volume of gasoline that they produce or import by 2010. Upon successful demonstration of renewable diesel fuel use under the range of Canadian conditions, the government will require an average two percent renewable fuel content in diesel fuel and heating oil by no later than 2012. The government also announced funding of $365 million to bolster the development of biofuels and other bioproducts. These actions will significantly reduce air emissions from the fuel Canadians use to travel, to transport goods, and to heat their homes.

To complement the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda, the government will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants through targeted incentives and programs for industry and consumers:

In addition, the Minister of Natural Resources and Alberta's Minister of Energy have commissioned the Canada-Alberta ecoENERGY Carbon Capture and Storage Task Force. The Task Force is made up of CEOs from the oil, power and pipeline industries, as well as a member of the academic community. It has been tasked with examining the opportunities for the large-scale application of carbon capture and storage technology in Canada. Based on that examination, the Task Force will provide a comprehensive set of options describing how government and industry can work together to take advantage of those opportunities.

On March 19, 2007, the government further demonstrated its commitment to environmental action to provide health and environmental benefits for Canadians by allocating $4.5 billion in Budget 2007 for initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, as well as for water conservation, and enforcement initiatives. These initiatives included the following:

These other initiatives will deliver real results while industrial regulations are developed and will promote the technological innovation required to support upcoming regulations. In addition, these initiatives, including the regulations, start Canada on the road to making real progress towards its Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The real reductions in emissions that will be driven by the regulations, coupled with the impacts of both the non-regulatory actions above and ambitious new initiatives being taken by provincial and territorial governments, mean that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions from all sources are expected to begin to decline as early as 2010 and no later than 2012. Thereafter, absolute emissions continue to decline.

The government is committed to reducing Canada's total emissions of greenhouse gases, relative to 2006 levels, by 20% by 2020 and by 60% to 70% by 2050.

The government supports the Kyoto process, and actions at home will be the basis for Canada's participation in future international cooperative efforts to address climate change.

Significant, long-term progress on greenhouse gases and air pollutants will be realized only through the development, commercialization, and deployment of new, cleaner energy and transportation technologies and through the active participation of all Canadians and all aspects of Canadian society.

The government recognizes the need to work with all consumers, industry, and the provinces and territories as we move forward to implement this aggressive plan. All Canadians will need to do their part to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution to help protect their health and their environment. This paper lays out the government's plan to lead the way, both domestically and internationally.

1 Notice of intent to develop and implement regulations and other measures to reduce air emissions, Canada Gazette, Part I, October 21, 2006, Vol. 140, No. 42 at page 3351, available at