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Environment Minister Rona Ambrose discusses the proposed clean air act during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

The Harper government introduced on Thursdaya proposed clean air act that would begin regulatingsmog levels by 2010 and looks tocut greenhouse gas emissionsin half by 2050.

The bill sets out a number of regulation timetables for industries that emit air pollution and greenhouse gases, including the auto industry and the oil and gas sector.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said the days when industry voluntarily complied with set environmental standards "are over."

"From now on, all industry sectors will have mandatory requirements and we will enforce those requirements," she said.

By 2011, there will possibly be a rule to make industry cut more, but the government won't say by how much.

The bill also calls for the reduction of car emissions by 2011 to align Canada withregulationsof the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The government plans tospendthe next four yearsconsulting withindustry and the provinces with the aim of developing short-term, medium-term and long-term targets to cut smog emissions.

No hard caps until 2020 or 2025

Under the proposed bill, there would be no hard caps on greenhouse gas emissionsuntil 2020 or 2025, but the government will seek to cut emissions by 45 to 65 per cent by 2050.

Until then, the government will also set "intensity-based" emissions targets.

Intensity-based targets means environmental emissions would be relative to the economic output of various industries. That means even though individual emission limits for each barrel of oil or piece of coal could be lowered, if production increases, the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants could grow.

Many environmentalists believe capping greenhouse gas emissions is key to tackling climate change. Critics of intensity-based targets say the approach allows heavily polluting industries, such as Alberta's oilsands, to continue to grow and pollute, while remaining under government-imposed limitations.

Ambrose said any polluter who goes over the regulated targets will be fined, with the money going to an environmental damage fund.

The minister denied that the long-range timetables set out in the act meant the government was not acting immediately to tackle pollution.

Shepointed tothe Tory transit pass credit which keepsmotorists off the road. Another action is making mandatory the auto industry commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles by 5.3 megatons by the year 2010.

Ambrose said industry will have to make significant capital investments, and it takes timeto make thosechanges.

In the coming year, Ambrose said the government will introduce regulations to reduce emissions from motorcycles, outboard engines, all-terrain vehicles and off-road diesel engines.

With files from the Canadian Press