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G8 an opportunity for Canada to take action

VANCOUVER — Weak government policies are behind Canada's poor environmental record, not the country's cold climate and large size according to a new study released today by Simon Fraser University and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Canada has the second worst environmental record of OECD countries, ranking 24th out of 25 countries. Only the United States ranks lower. The top ranking countries are Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

The study is one of the first ever to examine the reasons for Canada's poor environmental performance. Factors such as Canada's cold climate, large size, and heavy reliance on natural resource industries were examined and found that none explain Canada's poor performance.

"The traditional explanations for Canada's poor performance are simply not valid," says Dr. Thomas Gunton, lead author of the study. "These so-called natural disadvantages are offset by a major natural advantage we have over other countries — the availability of low polluting hydro power."

The research shows that if Canada's environmental policies were strengthened to the level in other developed countries such as Sweden and Denmark, Canada's environmental ranking would move from 24th to 1st.

"Now that the environment is on the agenda for the G8 and the G20, Canada has an opportunity to recommit to taking action on climate change," says Pierre Sadik, Manager of Government Affairs at the David Suzuki Foundation. "It's a chance to begin to rehabilitate our international reputation on the environment."

The study rated the record of 25 developed countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development using 28 environmental indicators. The most recent environmental data from the OECD, to which Canada is a member, was used to formulate the results.

Canada is the highest emitter of volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide emissions, and nuclear waste and is among the worst emitters of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and greenhouse gases. Overall Canada received a failing grade (F) on 15 of 28 indicators.

The study recommends that the major policy changes required include tougher pollution regulations and higher energy prices offset by tax reductions.

Download a backgrounder or complete copy of the report.

For more information:

Dr. Thomas Gunton
Lead Author
Tel: 250-477-7601

Leanne Clare
Communications Specialist
David Suzuki Foundation
Tel: 613-594-5410
Email: lclare@davidsuzuki.org

June 16, 2010