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Air Quality - Where Are We Now? Where Are We Going?

Highlights

  • Canada and British Columbia air quality has improved remarkably since the 1970s and has continued to improve from 2000 to today.  There has been a steep decline in the quantities of pollutants including particulate matter, ground level ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxides.  As a result, we compare favourably with the United States and most other OECD countries.
  • In BC, air emissions continue to decline. At the same time there has been increase in activity (i.e., number of facilities.)  This demonstrates that BC businesses have done a good job protecting human health and the environment, while creating jobs and investment.
  • Since 2012 Ministers of Environment from across Canada have been developing a Canada-wide Air Quality Management System (AQMS).  The AQMS includes air quality objectives for air zones known as CAAQS (Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards), and equipment standards known as BLIERS (Base-level industrial Emissions Requirements), as well as efforts to address mobile sources (not discussed in this paper).
  • CAAQS are non-binding objectives.  Each province or territory can choose to achieve or not the objectives in the context of its unique geography, economic structure and social context. BLIERS will be national minimum equipment standards. Importantly, CAAQS are not intended to be translated as go-no-go permit conditions.
  • It may be more challenging to find the next tranche of economically feasible air pollutant reductions.  Collaboration among government, industry and other stakeholders will be essential.
  • Careful consideration of several outstanding and substantive policy questions is necessary if the AQMS is to become a robust framework with sustainable outcomes.

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