Pollution prevention federal action strategy: chapter 6


The Government of Canada will achieve its goals of environmental protection through a combination of legislation, regulation, voluntary initiatives and economic instruments. Finding effective ways of preventing pollution requires commitment and concerted action on the part of everyone. With this in mind, the federal government's action plan for pollution prevention involves partnerships in five key areas - within the federal government, with other orders of government in Canada, with the private sector, with individual Canadians, and with the international community.

The shift towards pollution prevention represents a significant change in approach to environmental protection policy in Canada. It will require a shared understanding of the reasons behind the shift and the consequences of this new approach to safeguarding human health, protecting our environment and becoming more economically competitive.

Training and the development of a new body of expertise will help governments, the private sector and individual Canadians make the transition to a pollution prevention ethic where environmental considerations are an integral part of everyday decision making. Scientific research, technology development and demonstration, and lawmaking and enforcement will all be affected. The need to integrate federal, provincial, aboriginal, and municipal environmental protection efforts will be pursued.

The federal initiatives outlined here under each of the five goals are designed to be undertaken in parallel. But a top priority will be the need to demonstrate a commitment to pollution prevention within the federal government.

Within the federal government - Institutionalize pollution prevention across all federal government activities.

The federal government's action items are intended to incorporate pollution prevention into government activities, and into decision making for policies, programs and legislation. The Government of Canada is institutionalizing preventive environmental care as the priority across all of its departments. In so doing, it is promoting pollution prevention as the environmental protection approach of choice for achieving sustainable development.

  • Incorporate pollution prevention into federal legislation. For example, the parliamentary review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) was recently completed. Throughout the review the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development heard from a broad spectrum of Canadian society and pollution prevention was of primary interest. The committee has recommended that pollution prevention be the guiding principle of the renewed Act, and that CEPA clearly establish pollution prevention as the priority approach to environmental protection. Government departments will examine opportunities to incorporate the pollution prevention approach in other legislation, while developing their sustainable development strategies.

    Environmental assessment is key to promoting pollution prevention by allowing environmental considerations early on in the decision making process. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act promotes pollution prevention practices. As well, options will be developed to strengthen the way in which government policies and programs are assessed.

  • Establish and implement green policies. By changing its practices, the federal government can have an enormous impact on the success of Canada's pollution prevention efforts. The federal government has annual expenditures of about $120 billion - $8 billion of which is used to purchase consumer, commercial and industrial goods and services. It owns or manages 41 per cent of Canada's landmass. It is the country's largest commercial landlord, owning or leasing 25 million square metres of office space in about 59,000 buildings and facilities, ranging from office towers to laboratories.

    An environmentally responsible, Greening of Government Operations initiative has been launched. It provides guidance for government-wide procurement, fleet management, waste reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation. It will reduce pollution while providing market stimulus for environmental industries and more environmentally responsible products. Environment Canada can assist other government departments in identifying cost-effective pollution prevention practices. It can also demonstrate the benefits of pollution prevention through its environmental action plans for Atlantic Canada, the Arctic, the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, Northern Rivers in the Prairies, and the Fraser River in British Columbia.

  • Integrate pollution prevention into departmental policies and programs. In developing or reviewing policies and programs, federal departments will use pollution prevention principles. Barriers to pollution prevention will be removed, and where appropriate, incentives promoting pollution prevention will be considered. In addition, pollution prevention should become an explicit criterion in the environmental assessment of projects, programs and policies.

  • Establish a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Under the Auditor General Act, a Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development is being established. Federal departments will be required to develop and implement sustainable development strategies and action plans in an open, transparent and consultative manner. The Commissioner will monitor and report to Parliament on each department's performance. Pollution prevention planning methodology is well advanced. It will provide for integration of environmental concerns into decision making and for effective sustainable development strategies.

With other governments - Foster a national pollution prevention effort.

Through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), the federal and provincial governments have affirmed a National Commitment to Pollution Prevention. This commitment provides the federal government with an opportunity to work in partnership with the provinces in developing pollution prevention strategies and in implementing the Next Steps outlined in the CCME document.

The federal government also recognizes the value of working with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples to apply pollution prevention consistently during the evolution of Aboriginal self-government.

The federal government recognizes the importance of municipalities in pollution prevention and, in partnership with provincial and regional governments, will encourage municipalities in actions outlined in the CCME National Commitment to Pollution Prevention.

  • Review legislation, regulations and policy for opportunities to harmonize approaches to pollution prevention. A consistent, national approach to pollution prevention involving all jurisdictions (federal, provincial, territorial, aboriginal and municipal) is important to long-term investment planning. Jurisdictional consistency will contribute to the competitiveness of Canadian business by reducing the administrative burden on companies.
  • Develop practical tools, such as guidelines and codes of practice, to enable people to implement pollution prevention at an operational level. The federal government encourages the sharing of information, expertise and technologies, and teamwork to develop pollution prevention initiatives. Federal-provincial harmonization will help deliver consistent and efficient pollution prevention programs for Canada.
  • Educate the public about pollution prevention and train relevant groups in the technical aspects of pollution prevention. Acquiring and distributing information on pollution prevention is generally the prerogative of individual jurisdictions. There is, however, interest in exploring opportunities to collaborate on the development and distribution of educational and training materials. Electronic as well as traditional distribution options will be explored.

With the private sector - Achieve a climate in which pollution prevention becomes a major consideration in private sector activities.

Pollution prevention aims at eliminating pollutants and waste in production, and at encouraging process changes that promote production of durable, recyclable, less hazardous goods. To succeed, pollution prevention needs to be an integral part of an overall environmental management system designed to improve quality and competitiveness while protecting the environment. Governments can help by emphasizing the need to develop corporate-wide, cost-effective pollution prevention initiatives.

  • Develop innovative pollution prevention programs. The success of pollution prevention is closely related to how well people understand their activities. Programs that focus on pollution prevention planning and on the use of environmental management systems will lead the way to minimizing waste and avoiding the creation of pollutants. Engaging people in goal-setting with public accountability is another innovative way to improve environmental performance.

    Programs like ARET (Accelerated Reduction/Elimination of Toxics) are showing excellent results. Annual emission reductions by the first 145 ARET participants are expected to exceed 18,000 tonnes in the year 2000 compared to baseline years starting in 1988. They allow the government to expand the range of cost-effective options available to protect the environment. Environmental performance contracts could offer another option. Here, a bonded contractual arrangement could cover the operations of an entire facility, rather than regulating that facility substance-by-substance and medium-by-medium.

  • Promote pollution prevention through refocused research, development and demonstration initiatives. For example, the Program on Energy Research and Development (PERD) includes pollution prevention as a primary environmental consideration in the assessment of R&D projects. Also, the Canadian Environmental Industry Strategy calls for continued federal support of environmental research, development and commercialization in a number of key areas. These include clean air technologies, pollution prevention, energy efficiency, "clean car" emission reduction and alternative transportation. This industry strategy encourages companies to use innovative process and product technologies that go beyond current environmental standards.

  • Promote the adoption of sustainable production in industrial and manufacturing processes. For example, "Green Chemistry" describes a shift in the design of chemical reactions and the development of new substances to emphasize broader considerations such as reduced toxicity and energy use. The concept requires a shift in research and development priorities to more innovative and environmentally benign products and technologies that lead to sustainable production.

  • Implement economic instruments that will result in pollution prevention. Generally, economic instruments give flexibility in how to achieve environmental objectives. This market-based approach encourages innovative and cost-effective solutions to reduce or eliminate pollution. Industry, labour, and the environmental community should be prominent in the effort to expand the use of economic instruments in pursuit of environmental activities.

    A federal government task force has identified specific barriers and disincentives to sound environmental practices as well as proposing a framework for ongoing systematic identification and analysis. In addition, Environment Canada's Strategic Options Process gives industrial and other participants an opportunity to explore alternative ways of achieving environmental goals - including the use of economic instruments.

  • Help small and medium-sized enterprises improve their environmental performance. The Canadian Environmental Industry Strategy will assist small and medium-sized businesses to improve their environmental performance. A program is being developed to promote pollution prevention among smaller firms. Environment Canada and Industry Canada will provide technical assistance and advice to small and medium-sized enterprises to help implement pollution prevention practices through environmental management systems in their places of business.

With all Canadians - Provide access to the information and tools necessary to implement pollution prevention practices.

A majority of Canadians believe that the environment can be protected only if individuals are prepared to change their lifestyles. The demand for information about how to protect the environment is an indication of their willingness to be part of the solution. Pollution prevention strategies will be more successful if individual Canadians are aware of the choices that are available to them in their daily lives. Practical pollution prevention information empowers individuals, communities and businesses to work with government and other sectors of society to achieve sustainable development.

  • Provide information that illustrates how pollution prevention fits into daily activities. The federal government's pollution prevention goals will be more successfully achieved if organizations and small businesses have the learning resources and tools to develop pollution prevention strategies of their own. This can be accomplished through changes to university curricula, via industry associations, and better access to government information. Success stories and demonstration projects that highlight the benefits of pollution prevention are part of the government's action plan.

  • Create a national pollution prevention clearinghouse. Learning and training materials that support the shift towards pollution prevention are available nationally, internationally and in some provinces. Through the provision of a Canadian focal point, and by the linking of existing databases electronically, Canadians could more readily access a wider range of information resources.

  • Encourage consumers to use their purchasing power to promote pollution prevention. The Environmental Choice Program, which focuses on stimulating demand for environmentally responsible products and services, is an excellent example of pollution prevention in practice. To promote customer recognition and consumer confidence, there is a need to raise public awareness of the program. As well, within the marketplace there is need for better control over what can be marketed as a "green" product.

With the international community - Participate in international pollution prevention initiatives.

Sustainable development demands a shift to measures that avoid the creation of pollutants and waste nationally and internationally. Environmental concerns are global in scope and require a global approach to finding solutions.

Driven by economic and environmental market forces, trading countries like Canada and trading blocs in Europe, North America and Asia are under increasing pressure to produce and exchange goods that come from cleaner technologies. Canada can protect its own economic and environmental interests by demonstrating its commitment to sustainable development.

  • Stimulate a shift to pollution prevention in international organizations. Within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada can develop and encourage policy approaches based on pollution prevention principles. Areas where there are opportunities for such initiatives include: technology transfer, voluntary agreements, conservation, transportation, climate change and greenhouse gas reductions. International development agencies in Canada can promote pollution prevention in developing countries, helping them avoid the economic and environmental costs associated with pollution control and remediation. Canada can also promote pollution prevention issues in development, trade and foreign aid talks within organizations such as the United Nations, the G7, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth and La Francophonie.

  • Incorporate pollution prevention into international standards. Canada will promote adoption of pollution prevention practices in standards where appropriate. For example, Canada is working with other countries through the Canadian Standards Association to develop an environmental management system that is expected to serve as a model worldwide. Consideration is being given to including pollution prevention in the standard.

  • Advance pollution prevention through international protocols and agreements. The Montreal Protocol calling for the phaseout of a number of ozone-depleting substances is a good example of a pollution prevention initiative. It banned the use of substances that pose unacceptable risks to the environment and promoted the development of more benign alternatives. Canada should be a full participant in other international initiatives that offer an opportunity to advance environmental protection through pollution prevention. For example, the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation and the Organization of American States have identified pollution prevention as a priority. Canadian input to these international initiatives will advance pollution prevention in the context of trade and the environment.

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