New forum assembles pulp and paper industry, other interests to develop ten-year air emissions agenda
The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) in partnership with Environment Canada last week launched the inaugural Pulp and Paper Air Quality Forum at PaperWeek International 2005 in Montreal. Based on a proposal drafted last September, the partners cite this unique, collaborative approach to managing air quality as the first of its kind in any industry.
The Forum's mandate will be to develop an evergreen, ten-year co-operative agenda for the management of air emissions from pulp and paper mills. This will be a recommended agenda for industry and governments, recognizing that accountability for development and implementation of regulatory programs rests with individual governments.
The Forum, led by FPAC and with membership drawn from the industry, provincial and federal governments, environmental and aboriginal communities, will consider the air quality and emission issuees confronting the industry in the long term, the policy objectives and requirements of federal and provincial governments, the economic and technical plans for the industry and the concerns of communities as expressed by environmental and aboriginal groups. The Forum will be supported by a technical advisory group which will respond to questions, seek out shared interests and opportunities, and support the Forum's development of a ten-year co-operative plan.
FPAC president and CEO Avrim Lazar pointed out that "the Canadian pulp and paper industry has worked diligently since 1992 to address air quality. Pulp and paper mills have reduced particulate emissions by half, sulfur dioxide by 20% and total sulfur gases by 45%. Additionally, an increased use of biomass green energy has significantly reduced the industry's reliance on fossil fuels to power their mills and helped the forest products industry as a whole achieve a 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2002, surpassing its Kyoto targets by more than three times.
"These are terrific achievements by any standard, but we know that we need to do more," he continued. "The strong commitment we've received from Environment Canada, provinces, and representatives from both the environmental and aboriginal communities is a testament to the positive work that results from a co-operative approach. Our Forum members are informed, influential and committed, and have the ability to impact the air quality agenda in a progressive and positive way."
"Through this multi-stakeholder process, we're committed to ensuring that sound and responsible environmental goals and standards are established in a way that promotes economic activity and which protects the environment and human health," said federal Environment Minister StÈphane Dion.
Among the Forum members is Friends of the Earth, whose CEO Beatrice Olivastri observed that "this unique Forum offers an opportunity to make local progress on cleaner air while addressing the important energy challenges faced by the pulp and paper industry. Friends of the Earth is very pleased to engage in this process," she added.
The establishment of the Forum stems from a proposal made last September as a result of a research project carried out under the auspices of the federal "smart regulations" initiative. FPAC and Environment Canada brought together a highly qualified group of environmental professionals from industry, federal and provincial governments, and the Aboriginal and environmental communities and essentially handed them a clean sheet of paper. Members of this project team did not represent their specific constituencies; rather, they advised the proponents as experts. This allowed a free flow of converging ideas which led to the Forum proposal.
The pulp and paper industry is in the process of a major economic transformation to remain competitive in the global marketplace. At the same time, there is growing pressure on the industry to reduce the emissions of a number of air pollutants to meet local concerns and provincial and federal requirements. Together, these often pose widely differing priorities for air emissions management. Compounding this challenge is the anticipated lengthening of the list of toxic pollutants that must be managed by the industry.
The Pulp and Paper Air Quality Forum offers an opportunity to build on Canada's current air emissions management regime with a national, sector-focused co-operative management approach which would look ahead and explore innovative ways to manage emissions in a more streamlined, efficient and effective way. This type of approach could avoid colliding agendas, confusion, mistimed investments by industry, misspent resources by governments and less effective environmental management than desired. By strengthening co-operation and getting the governance mechanism right, there can be significant environmental and economic performance improvements.
The forum concept offers industry a chance to get more clarity and predictability with respect to air emissions requirements, more guidance on setting priorities for environmental investments, increased flexibility to integrate investments into business and capital planning cycles and more streamlined, co-ordinated federal and provincial requirements. It offers federal and provincial governments the opportunity to meet current and future Canada-wide Standards commitments and other obligations (e.g. CEPA 1999 obligations, local/regional air quality commitments) in the most effective and efficient way, thereby reducing costs. As well, it offers governments an opportunity to make plans in the context of an overall commitment to maintaining a strong, competitive and clean forest products sector. And it offers the environmental and Aboriginal communities an improved opportunity to influence the direction of industry and governments.
Forum members would have an opportunity to develop a co-operative agenda that is more than an amalgamation of their separate agendas. This will require exploration of new approaches. The group of environmental experts advising FPAC and Environment Canada looked into a number of innovative approaches, including linked federal pollution prevention plans and provincial permits, equivalency agreements, fiscal incentives, multi-facility emissions caps with trading, and research partnerships.
More information is available from Isabelle Des ChÍnes at the FPAC, 613) 563-1441, ext 323, E-mail email@example.com. The proposal on which the creation of the Forum is based may be viewed on-line at www.ec.gc.ca/nopp.