Feb. 18, 2009
WHITEHORSE, Yukon (CNB) - Federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers met on Tuesday, Feb. 17, in Whitehorse, Yukon, to discuss a range of issues, including municipal wastewater effluent, climate change and strategies to reduce packaging and encourage producers to take greater environmental responsibility for the products they manufacture.
The federal government committed to consult with provinces and territories in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009, and in future Canada-U.S. discussions on climate change.
"Climate change and its effects are a reality in our time, and they pose a significant challenge not only to New Brunswick, but also to the whole world," said Environment Minister Roland Haché. "These impacts will continue in many forms, and inevitably change the way we live and prosper. In the face of this challenge, it is clear that as ministers of environment, and as New Brunswickers and Canadians, we must continue to work together to address climate change."
The ministers recognized the work done to date in developing a-- Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluent developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). New Brunswick, along with a number of jurisdictions, has endorsed the strategy. Haché highlighted the need for the federal government to enhance funding to provinces to implement it.
The strategy sets out a harmonized framework to manage discharges from more than 3,500 wastewater facilities in Canada, many of which are currently in need of repair and upgrading. It provides an agreed-upon plan for achieving regulatory clarity for owners of municipal wastewater facilities. Performance standards will increase protection for human health and the environment on a national basis. Bilateral agreements between the federal government and provinces and territories will ensure one-window regulatory delivery of the strategy.
"Under this new strategy, all wastewater facilities in New Brunswick and in Canada would be required to regularly monitor their effluent discharge in accordance with the requirements outlined, to ensure that they are being protective of the environment," said Haché.
Officials provided an update on the development of a new, comprehensive air management system focused on air quality based on a system of national standards. The ministers recognized the significant contribution that provinces and representatives from major industry sectors, as well as health and environmental non-governmental organizations, have made in doing this work. They also acknowledged the importance of air quality to Canadians.
Further CCME work on policy and implementation issues with stakeholders was supported. The ministers called for an implementation plan and timelines for the proposal to be brought back for consideration at the next CCME meeting. As well, they discussed strategies to reduce the millions of tonnes of waste that Canadians send for disposal in landfills and incinerators each year.
The ministers agreed to start national consultations on plans designed to reduce packaging and other waste, and encourage manufacturers to be responsible for the end-of-life management of the products and packaging they produce. They also agreed on the need for a comprehensive national standard on packaging. Officials were directed to begin work on this as a priority.
An update was received on water-related CCME initiatives - including water monitoring and climate change, water valuation and groundwater, as well as longstanding activities related to water quality - which have been an ongoing focus for the council. As a followup to the 2008 Council of the Federation meeting, CCME has recently initiated a study on water conservation and scarcity in the context of Canada's changing climate. The ministers agreed to develop a strategic national vision that captures existing water priorities.
"Our meeting was very productive and positive," Haché said. "CCME's meetings give us the chance to collaborate on environmental issues. We have made good progress in discussing areas of mutual concern, and I'm confident that this progress will continue as we work together to protect and sustain the environment."
CCME is the major intergovernmental forum in Canada for discussion and joint action on environmental issues of national and international concern.
Further details are available online.
MEDIA CONTACT: Vicky Deschênes, public affairs, Department of Environment, 506-457-7202.