September 17, 2007

Environment, resources ministers review progress on climate change, air quality

Air quality and climate changed topped the agenda for discussion as federal, provincial, and territorial environment ministers gathered in Winnipeg to examine how they can work together to further reduce risks posed by air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Up to 200 delegates were on hand for the annual Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) meeting, held September 11 and 12 in conjunction with the Canadian Council of Resources Ministers (CCRM) meeting.

"The regulation of air quality currently dominates the public environmental agenda, and governments are working collaboratively to address people's concerns," said New Brunswick Environment Minister and outgoing CCME president Roland Haché. "I am pleased that CCME will be used as a key mechanism for meaningful collaboration in shaping the development of the Federal Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions.

"For example," he continued, "the federal government indicated its willingness to consider entering into equivalency agreements with interested jurisdictions."

The environment ministers also agreed to pursue additional work through CCME on priority water issues of concern across Canada, focusing on climate change, valuation of water as natural capital and improved understanding and management of groundwater resources. They also initiated work on improving the timeliness and co-ordination of environmental assessments and a broader approach to regional environmental assessments, recognizing the interest expressed by premiers through the Council of the Federation.

The ministers said they were pleased to see positive results from their continuing collaboration to make Canada-wide improvements to the environment. Since establishing CCME standards in 2000 to limit dioxins and furans from incineration, air emissions from incineration nation-wide have been reduced by over 85%. These reductions are even more meaningful when recognizing these are among the most stringent numeric targets in the world for these persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative substances.

"Considering recent accomplishments, CCME is, in my opinion, an outstanding example of how effectively inter-governmental relations can advance the environmental agenda in Canada," said Haché.

Environment ministers are continuing to guide the development of a Canada-wide strategy to improve the handling of municipal wastewater and of an economic plan for sustainable funding of the initiative. Improved protection of environmental and human health is one goal of the strategy.

Consultations last winter with a broad range of stakeholders during the winter led to revision of the Canada-wide strategy, and the ministers have directed officials to further consult on the revised strategy as well as the newly-developed economic plan before it is submitted to the ministers for their approval in the spring of 2008.

As the meeting wrapped up, Yukon Premier and Minister of Environment Dennis Fentie was named the new CCME president for 2007-08.

A meeting of ministerial representatives from the CCME and the Canadian Council of Resources Ministers (CCRM) had Climate Change Adaptation as its theme, with special focus on water, land-use planning and biodiversity.

This meeting marked the second consecutive year that these councils have met in a combined forum to discuss cross-cutting policy issues affecting the environment and natural resources. It allowed ministers responsible for resources such as forests, wildlife, endangered species, parks, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the environment, to discuss the effects and impacts that climate change is having on Canada's environment and natural resources.

"Ensuring our forest stays healthy, and finding the proper balance among the many ways we use it will always be a challenge," said New Brunswick Natural Resources Minister Donald Arseneault, incoming chair of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM). "The advice and input of our stakeholders is essential to the development of Canada's Forest Strategy for 2008 and Beyond."

As part of its continuing work, the CCME has released the "Monitoring Protocol in Support of the Canada-wide Standards for Mercury Emissions from Coal-fired Electric Power Generation Plants." This document provides guidance to jurisdictions on monitoring and reporting to assess achievement of the Canada-wide standards for coal-fired electric generation plants. It may be viewed on the CCME Web site, www.ccme.ca.

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