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Canada’s environmental failure

The latest environmental study shows Canada ranking 15 out of 17 developed nations on environmental performance and received a C grade. The Conference Board of Canada’s main goal is to measure quality of life for Canada and its allies. However, importance is placed not only on quality of life, but a country must demonstrate that its high quality of life is sustainable.

The board stated: “There is growing recognition that growth domestic product (GDP) produced at the expense of the global environment, and at the expense of scarce and finite physical resources, overstates the net contribution of that economic growth to a country’s prosperity.”

Some of the indicators the environmental performance was measured by are: air quality; waste; water quality and quantity; biodiversity and conservation; natural resource management; climate change; and energy efficiency.

The board found that Canada produces more garbage than any other nation in the study, more than twice as much than Japan, the leading country in that category.

Water use is another reason Canada ended up near the bottom, Canadians and Canadian industry uses twice as much as most countries on the list and nine times more than the top country in this category: Denmark. The only country that has higher water use is the U.S. Canada ranks dead last on energy intensity, which is a measure of the ratio between the amount of energy used and the gross domestic product.

Despite repeated promises to reduce per capita greenhouse emissions, Canada’s comes in third last on the list, largely blamed on Canada’s oil and gas exports.

Not too long ago environmental standards were a source of pride in Canada. That has greatly deteriorated. Last year, Environment Minister Peter Kent announced that the Conservative government is pulling Canada out of Kyoto Accord. This was largely criticized by allies around the world.

Moreover, recently Bill C 38, which was passed in an unusual move during the budget, allowed sweeping environmental changes, such as taking most of Canada’s rivers and lakes off the protected list.

Canada receives a C for water withdrawals per capita, measured by using gross freshwater withdrawals. These amounts are nearly double the 16-country average and nine times the amount of water per capita than Denmark, for example.

Canada ranked as one of the world’s worst for GHG emissions and earned a D in this category. In 2010, Canada’s GHG emissions were 20.3 tons per capita. The 17-country average is 12.5 tons.

Canadians generate 777 kg of municipal waste per capita in 2008 (last time it was measured). The amount of waste generated in Canada is well above the OECD average. Countries such as Germany had great success in reducing waste with strict and enforced recycle laws and by an ingenious law, which was introduced around 30 years ago, that states that the manufacturers are responsible to recycle their own packaging. This prompted the use of much less packaging and, of course, easier-to-recycle packaging.

Canada’s fish resources are still diminishing and unsustainable fishing practices still prevail. This prompted a declining marine tropic index.

Ilse Quick




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