November 15, 2004

Environment ministers to draft Canada-wide environmental sustainability framework

At their annual fall meeting in Ottawa on November 2, federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers agreed to work to develop an environmental sustainability framework for Canada. As the next step in this process, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) will meet again at the beginning of March 2005 to agree on a draft framework. This document will provide a basis for consultations aimed at producing a definitive sustainability framework agreement. The final version will be reviewed by the ministers next June before they seek approval within their respective jurisdictions by the fall of 2005.

The purpose of a national sustainability framework would be to attain the highest possible level of environmental quality so as to enhance the health and well-being of Canadians, preserve and protect the natural environment, and advance Canada's long-term competitiveness, while respecting the jurisdictions of each government.

The ministers noted that growing emphasis is being placed globally on the emerging role of environmental sustainability. Citizens, investors and markets are all demanding improved environmental performance; consequently, environmental sustainability is emerging as a key ingredient for competitiveness and success.

"We are working towards a fundamental change in our approach to environmental management, so that environmental sustainability underpins our decisions," said federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion at the conclusion of his term as CCME president.

The ministers reiterated their commitment to develop a Canada-wide standard (CWS) by 2005 to substantially reduce mercury emissions from the coal fired electricity generation sector. They also discussed options for reducing emissions from wood-burning appliances. These devices, which release various air pollutants, are a primary source of winter smog in some municipalities.

As a follow-up to their meeting, the CCME released an interim report on progress by Canadian jurisdictions towards achieving the targets for the first four of the five sectors for which dioxin and furan CWSs have been developed. These include: pulp and paper boilers burning salt-laden wood; waste incinerators; iron sintering plants; and manufacturing electric arc furnaces. (An interim progress report on the fifth CWS for emissions from conical waste combustion is expected in the spring of 2005.)

The report indicates that jurisdictions are taking steps to meet or surpass the emission targets set by the CWS for dioxins and furans; in some cases, longer-term targets for 2010 are already being met or surpassed, although in others, more effort will be required to meet the targets.

Another report released by the ministers summarized the implementation of the CWS for petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC) in soil. PHC is the most common form of soil and groundwater contamination in Canada. Since this CWS was endorsed in 2001, the report indicates that nearly 10,000 sites across Canada have been treated, and 85% of signatory jurisdictions have implemented the CWS for PHC, resulting in changes to regulations, guidelines and policies.

Also at the meeting, the ministers accepted a list of Canada-wide principles for electronics product stewardship, developed over the past year. This series of 12 principles will be used to assist and support jurisdictions in the development of e-waste programs. Among other things, the principles clarify primary responsibility for management of e-waste (which resides with producers, including manufacturers, brand owners and first importers), management of e-waste according to the 4R hierarchy (reduction, re-use, recycling, recovery of materials and/or energy), and main features of e-waste management programs.

Other topics of discussion by the ministers included: the development of a national strategy for municipal wastewater effluent (to be completed in 2006); climate change (with context provided by a presentation from the Ouranos Consortium on climate change adaptation); and advice to the federal Environment Minister as part of his preparations for the upcoming review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). A five-year review of CEPA, mandated by the act itself, is expected to be referred to the House of Commons by March 31, 2005 and will be conducted by a Parliamentary committee with advice from the federal ministers of Environment and of Health.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Labour Kerry Morash assumed the presidency of CCME, which rotates among jurisdictions on an annual basis.

More information is available from CCME executive director Carl Hrenchuk, 204/948-2172, or on the CCME Web site, www.ccme.ca.

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