Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was under pressure in a House of Commons committee on Thursday to elaborate on federal environmental plans. ((CBC))

Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose says she expects"very soon" to announce an environmentalapproach that will supersede greenhouse gas targets that Canadaisn't meeting "due to Liberal inaction."

She announced no new targets, however, and did notrank global warming asthetopissue facing her department.

Canadians' No. 1 priority is air quality, meaning the purity of the air they breathe, while climate change is "another issue that they're very concerned with," she said.

Minister grilled by environment committee

Ambrose appeared Thursday before the House of Commonsenvironment committee, where she was grilled on the government'sapproach tothe Kyoto Protocol,a deal viewed with hostility by Prime Minister Stephen Harper before and since he gained power.

She said she welcomes a report released last week by Canada's environment commissioner, Johanne Gelinas,who criticized the previous government's performance on the protocol, under which Canada has pledged to reduce its output of heat-trapping gases.

She said the government accepts all of the commissioner's recommendations and agrees with her that Canada isnot on track to keep its promise to cut emissions tosix per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Ambrosesaid there was no clearbasisfor settingthat "unachievable" target. In fact, emission levels are now 27 per cent above 1990 levels,she said.

She saidthatthe Liberals wasted $1 billion on emission-reduction efforts that did not work, and that "neither advertising campaigns nor preening on the international stage" will solve the problem.

"Kyoto did not fail this country," she said. "The Liberal Party of Canada failed Kyoto."

Conservatives will announce better approach, Ambrose says

The Conservative government will provide real action on greenhouse gases and other air pollution through a planned Clean Air Act, she said.

"As the environment commissioner said, we need new targets."

However,the government will not adopttargets without consulting the provinces and affected industries, she said.

None of this meansCanada is abandoning the Kyoto Protocol,Ambrose said, althoughshe hasinformed other governments that Canadawon't meetthe existing target.

"It would mean that we would have to shut down the majority of industry in Canada to make that commitment, if we made that commitment here at home," she said.

The onlyotherapproach — which the government has ruled out — would be to spend billions of dollars to buy emission-reduction credits on international markets, she said.Such creditsare of dubious value, offering no assurance that emissions would actually be reduced, she said.

In her report, Gelinas said Ottawa has done a poor job of protecting the oceans, promoting biodiversity and ensuring safe drinking water on native reserves, andwas critical of how the Liberals handled the climate change issue.

Before the meeting, some committee members said they wanted to focus not so much on Liberal inaction but on Conservative plans to protect the environment.

On Wednesday during question period, the NDP put pressure on Ambrose to elaborate on federal environmental plans. Earlier this week, the government held a meeting with representatives of Canadian automakers to talk about the possibility of regulations to reduce auto emissions.

Wednesday night, all three opposition parties voted in favour of a Liberal private member's bill that calls on the Harper government to produce a plan to ensure it meets the targets set for Canada in the Kyoto Protocol.

Bill C-288, An Act to Ensure Canada Meets its Global Climate Change Obligations Under the Kyoto Protocol, was approved 152-115 at second reading and will now go to the Commons committee for more study.