David Suzuki Foundation calls for change of direction as economic development outpaces environmental protections
The release today of the 2012 Fall Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development raises alarms about the federal government's approach to managing human impacts on the environment, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.
The commissioner cautions that Canada's current course, with 600 major resource projects valued at $650 billion taking place over the next 10 years, does little to address serious environmental risks. The report addresses issues in four chapters: Atlantic Offshore Oil and Gas Activities, Financial Assurances for Environmental Risks, Marine Protected Areas and A Study of Federal Support to the Fossil Fuel Sector.
"The increasing gap between the accelerated development of natural resources and the capacity of the federal government to protect the environment and manage risks is made crystal clear in the commissioner's report," says Jean-Patrick Toussaint, science project manager at the David Suzuki Foundation's Quebec office. "While the government should be enhancing its efforts, it has chosen to dismantle legislation protecting our health and environment, subjecting all Canadians to unacceptable risks."
The report was also critical of the missed targets for Marine Protected Areas. "Canada has multiple acts and agreements that commit to protecting 20 per cent of our oceans by 2020, but the commissioner shows that with less than one per cent protected, we won't meet this goal within this century," said Bill Wareham, senior marine conservation specialist. In contrast, Australia recently announced plans to protect 40 per cent of its marine environment.
The report highlights the irresponsibly low liability cap of $30 million for businesses for oil spills, which is several orders of magnitude less than the estimated damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico ($40 billion). "While the financial risk is astounding, the implications to our natural heritage and the lives of people who depend on the bounty of the ocean are immeasurable," Toussaint said.
With production of natural gas from unconventional sources expected to increase by more than 50 per cent in the coming years, it's essential for the federal government to put control measures in place for toxic substances used in the fracking process. "We were happy to see concerns raised about the lack of regulation of toxins used in the fracking process," said David Suzuki Foundation energy policy analyst Tyler Bryant. "The federal government needs to lead by requiring shale gas producers to disclose the pollutants they release, to evaluate the impacts and to regulate practices for the health and safety of Canadians and their environment."
Bryant said efforts to reduce subsidies in the energy sector are a positive step, but that clean energy programs need more support. "We need to continue phasing out subsidies for fossil fuel extraction and start phasing in subsidies for clean energy deployment," he said.
The release of this report underscores the crucial role played by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in providing an overview of Canada's environmental practices and recommendations for improving environmental performance.
A copy of the report can be found at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201212_e_37708.html
For further information, please contact:
Mara Kerry, Science and Policy Director, David Suzuki Foundation: 604-732-4228, ext. 1236