The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released its 2009 environmental indicators index, which looks at Canada’s 20- to 30-year records (depending on subject studied) on air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater quality, freshwater withdrawals, soil quality, ecosystem conservation, and forestry.
The report, The Environmental State of Canada–30 years of Progress, was authored by Frontier advisor Kenneth Green (D. Env.), and Frontier analyst Ben Eisen (M.P.P.). Some of the findings from include:
• On air pollution: levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are much lower in Canadian towns and cities than they were just a few decades ago. For readings of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, there has been neither a measurable drop nor a measurable increase since the early 1990s.
• On greenhouse gas emissions, Canada’s emissions have increased by over 20 per cent since 1990. However, greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP (which accounts for population an economic growth and is measured as GHG emissions per unit of economic productivity) dropped 18 per cent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms between 1990 and 2005.
• On freshwater quality, more than twice as many monitored sites fell into one of the top two designations–good and excellent, than fell into one of the bottom two designations (marginal and poor).
Canada’s record in this area is also strong compared with its peer countries. Canada has the second-highest level of water quality among G8 countries, behind only Italy.
• On freshwater withdrawals, Canada’s NAFTA trading partners, the United States and Mexico, withdraw 17 per cent and 19 per cent respectively of their renewable fresh water each year, Canada withdraws just 1.6 per cent of its resources — a very sustainable level–and could afford to share fresh water with countries around the world which are water-poor and which suffer from environmental health problems as a result;
For further conservation measures in Canada however, water pricing should be introduced.
• Canadian soil quality has improved dramatically in recent years. Whereas in the early 1980s, Canada experienced a significant annual net loss in the measurement of soil organic carbon, by the early 2000s, Canada enjoyed large annual net gains.
The percentage of cropland designated by the federal government as being at very low risk of wind erosion (the lowest possible designation) reached 86 per cent in 2001, up from 72 per cent in 1981.
• On ecosystem conservation, In 1989, just three per cent of Canada’s land area was protected by legislation. By 2003, that number rose to 8.4 per cent.
• On forestry, throughout the past decade, Canada’s total forest cover has held steadily at approximately 310-million acres, or 34 per cent of Canada’s land mass.
“Canadians have much to celebrate concerning their natural environment,” write the report authors. “Over the past 30 years, Canada’s air and water have become cleaner, ecosystems and timberlands have been preserved, and soils that feed not only Canadians but also many others around the world have been protected.”
The authors also note that this has happened while Canada’s population and economy have both significantly grown strongly. “There is still more that can be done, but Canada is well on the way toward environmental sustainability.
The Frontier Centre’s policy paper, The Environmental State of Canada–30 years of Progress, can be downloaded here:
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study’s authors, contact: