Government of Canada actions to reduce air pollution
Many sources of air pollution also produce greenhouse gas emissions. We are taking steps to reduce air pollution and fight climate change through establishing national air quality standards, making investments in cleaner technologies, and putting in place regulations. Our scientists and researchers assess the health and environmental impacts of air pollutants and their sources. Their work helps inform action by the Government of Canada to further reduce the risks from air pollution.
Protecting Canadians against the adverse effects of air pollution
Everyone deserves clean air to breathe. Each year, poor air quality is costing Canadians their lives, not to mention $120 billion due to illness and lost productivity. Reducing emissions improves air quality and quality of life.
The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canadians from the adverse effects of air pollution, including wildfire smoke. We are doing this through:
- Investments in the Active Transportation Fund for projects that promote increased use of human-powered activities, such as walking, cycling and the use of human-powered or hybrid mobility aids including wheelchairs, scooters, e-bikes, rollerblades, snowshoes and cross-country skis, to provide tangible benefits to communities while also reducing emissions.
- Funding to support deployment of zero emission school and transit buses through the Zero Emission Transit Fund.
- Empowering Canadians to be aware of current air quality conditions through the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).
- Providing Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) forecasts for communities across Canada. These forecasts are issued twice a day and current air quality conditions are updated hourly.
- Providing wildfire smoke forecast maps through the Wildfire Smoke Prediction System (FireWork) to help predict how smoke from the wildfires is expected to travel.
- Providing air quality alerts for communities at immediate risk from air pollution caused by dense wildfire smoke.
- Working with other levels of government to measure air quality at hundreds of locations across Canada.
- Working with the provinces and territories through the Air Quality Management System.
- Working with international partners to ensure treaties such as the Canada-US Air Quality Agreement and the Gothenburg Protocol continue to be effective in reducing transboundary air pollution.
The Government of Canada is taking bold and immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change, while strengthening our economy with sustainable jobs and clean industrial growth.
We are doing this through the recently launched 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan. This is an ambitious and achievable roadmap that outlines a sector-by-sector path for Canada to reach its emissions reduction target of 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
In line with this plan, we are helping Canadians lower emissions of air pollutants by:
- delivering programs such as the Net Zero Accelerator to help businesses provide net-zero technologies to large emitters
- funding projects in Indigenous, rural and remote communities to reduce reliance on diesel for electricity
- providing incentives towards the purchase of zero emission vehicles
- funding to install more electric charging and hydrogen refueling stations
- ensuring Canadians use high-quality fuels by putting in place regulations, such as the Clean Fuel Standard, that limit polluting causing components, such as lead, sulphur and benzene, in fuels.
Reducing harmful emissions across various industries and operations, including emissions from transportation, and from consumer and commercial products through:
- developing a Clean Electricity Standard to transition to a net-zero grid by 2035
- developing new regulations to further reduce methane and volatile organic compound emissions from the oil and gas industry
- regulations to reduce emissions from a wide range of engines, vehicles and machines including:
- new passenger cars, light-duty trucks, motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles (such as highway tractors, buses and dump trucks)
- off-road small spark-ignition engines, such as small gas-powered generators, chainsaws, lawnmowers and other garden equipment
- off-road compression-ignition engines, such as farming, mining and forestry machines
- marine and off-road recreational vehicles powered by spark-ignition engines, such as off-road motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and personal watercraft
- large spark-ignition engines, such as forklifts, ice re-surfacers, and other commercial machines
- stationary compression-ignition engines, such as those commonly used to provide electricity in remote communities, to power industrial equipment, and as a back-up or emergency source of power for buildings
- Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations to reduce emissions from industrial boilers and heaters, cement manufacturing, and stationary engines
- guidelines for stationary combustion turbines, as well as codes of practice, performance agreements, and pollution prevention notices for sectors such as aluminum, iron, steel and ilmenite, iron ore pellets, potash, pulp and paper and base-metals smelting
- regulations to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from a wide range of consumer and commercial products
- other actions to reduce emissions include:
- funding projects through the Low Carbon Economy Fund that will achieve greenhouse gas and air pollutant reductions
- phasing out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030
- developing a proposed Clean Fuel Standard to promote clean technology and lower carbon fuel use in transportation across the country
- working with provinces and territories to implement Canada’s Air Quality Management System (AQMS), including industrial emissions requirements and setting stricter outdoor air standards known as Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS)
- implementing the Strategy on Short-lived Climate Pollutants as part of a holistic approach to meet climate and air quality objectives
- developing sales mandates and regulations for zero-emission vehicles:
- light-duty vehicles (LDV): mandatory interim target of at least 20% by 2026, at least 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2035
- medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDV): explore interim targets for the mid-2020s, regulations for varied 2030 sales requirements, and 100% by 2040
These actions are having an impact, and we are making good progress - most air pollutants in Canada show a declining trend. Our most recent data indicates that Canada has met its 2020 targets under the Gothenburg Protocol for SO2, NOx, PM2.5 and VOC emissions.
Increasing our climate ambition and improving air quality
Addressing climate change and ensuring clean air for Canadians is a top priority for the Government of Canada. As Canada advances on its journey towards our 2030 Paris Agreement climate target and towards net-zero emissions in 2050, our economy will become cleaner, with significant reductions in air pollutant emissions expected. For example, recent research suggests particulate matter—one of the most damaging air pollutants—could be reduced by as much as 88 per cent, with societal health benefits of about $7 billion a year.
To fight climate change and reach net-zero emissions, Canada has committed to planting 2 billion trees by 2030. The carbon sequestration and storage resulting from planting 2 billion trees will slow the rise of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and provide a host of co-benefits to communities and the environment, including improving air quality.
More information on how climate changing is impacting the air quality in Canada and the health of Canadians can be found in the recent report the Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action.
Protection against wildfire smoke
Protecting Canadians from air pollution and wildfire smoke impacts by:
- providing daily air quality forecasts with nearly 255 monitoring sites in more than 200 communities in Canada through the National Air Pollution Surveillance program
- making AQHI information available on the WeatherCan App by setting personal notifications
- working with partners (Natural Resources Canada and Canadian Foresetry Information System) to improve forest fire emissions inputs to Firework and improving the prediction of smoke to 72 hours using the Firework model
- using new technology to better forecast and model wildfire impacts
Research on air pollution impacts
Conducting research and assessments to better understand air pollution impacts on human health and the environment by:
- Estimating the health impacts and associated economic impacts of air pollution in Canada
- Assessing the health effects of traffic related air pollution, including potential health effects of gasoline exhaust and potential health effects of diesel exhaust
- publishing health risk assessments for:
- sulphur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
- assessing the health risks of particulate matter to update the science behind the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS)
- researching how air pollution contributes to the development of different diseases, and the health effects of exposure to the following sources to better understand and guide air quality decision-making:
- marine, rail, and air transportation
- forest fires
International agreements and partnerships
Working to address air pollution from outside Canada and short-lived climate pollutants through international agreements and partnerships such as:
- The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, and its Gothenburg Protocol
- The Climate and Clean Air Coalition
- The Global Methane Initiative
- The Global Methane Pledge
- Powering Past Coal Alliance
- The Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement
- The Arctic Council programs and working groups:
- The Commission for Environmental Cooperation
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