Science

Canada missing environmental targets, StatsCan says

Air and water quality have worsened since 1990 and Canada is lagging in meeting its greenhouse gas emission targets, a report from Statistics Canada says.

Canada's air and water quality is worsening and the country continues to lag in meetingits greenhouse gas emission targets, according to aStatistics Canada report released Monday.

Canadians' exposure to ground-level ozone,a component of smog, increased 12 per cent between 1990 and 2005, the latest year for which the agency has numbers. The increase was most prevalent in southern Ontario and Quebec, while the level in other regions was unchanged.

Fine particulate matter, another component of smog, was also unchanged between 2000 and 2005, the only period in which consistent data were available.

Transportation, electricity generation, wood burning, and the use of chemical products such as paint and solvents can increase levels of ozone and fine particulate matter in the air, Statistics Canada said.

Targets for freshwater quality, with respect to the protection of fish, aquatic invertebrates and plants, were not met at least occasionally at many test sites between 2003 and 2005.

Tests at359river and lake-monitoring sites in southern Canada found freshwater quality was rated as "good" or "excellent" at44 per centof the sites, "fair" at33 per cent, and "marginal" or "poor" at23 per cent.

The tests do not assess the quality of water for drinking by humans, Statistics Canada said.

The report found that phosphorus was a major concern for freshwater quality. Phosphorus levels in southern Canada did not meet the guidelines for aquatic life over half the time at 127 of 344 monitoring sites, it said.

Most phosphorus in water comes from sewage, agricultural runoff and industrial wastewater, and can result in the excessive growth of organisms such as algae and reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen available for fish and other aquatic animals. Some algae can also be toxic to humans and livestock.

The report also found greenhouse gas emissions increased25 per centbetween 1990 and 2005.

Gas emissions were estimated at 747 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or a third higher than those set by the Kyoto Protocol. Emissions increased over the period because of greater economic activity and a larger population, which has grown 17 per cent since 1990 to 32.3 million.

On the plus side, gas emissions per unit of economic activity were 17.8 per centlower in 2005 than in 1990, and they were stable between 2003 and 2005. The improvement wasmainly because of reduced coal-fired generation and increased hydro and nuclear generation,less demand for home heating fuels and lowerfossil fuel production, Statistics Canada said.

The results were the highlights of Statistics Canada's 2007 Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, which is scheduled for full release in December.

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