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Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, 2007

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The health of Canadians and their social and economic well-being are highly dependent on the quality of their environment. One way to assess environmental quality is to use indicators that convey complex information in a simple form. The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators provide an indication of the health of our environment in much the same way as the gross domestic product (GDP) and other measures provide a sense of the health of the economy. Over the long term, the intent of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators initiative is to supplement traditional social and economic measures with information that will allow Canadians to better understand the relationships that exist among the economy, the environment and human health and well-being.

This is the third annual Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators Highlights report. Highlights from this report were released on October 15, 2007. The full 2007 report provides more analysis on indicators and socio-economic factors than previous reports and is based on the best national information available on three environmental issues of high importance to Canadians: air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater quality. In this year’s report, the four indicators have been updated with 2005 data.

The air quality indicators track measures of exposure of Canadians to ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). These are key components of smog and two of the most pervasive and widely spread air pollutants. Exposure to these pollutants can be harmful. Both the ozone and PM2.5 exposure indicators are population-weighted average concentrations observed at monitoring stations across Canada during the warm season (April to September).

The greenhouse gas emissions indicator tracks the annual Canadian releases of the six greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons) that are the major contributors to climate change. The indicator comes directly from the National Inventory Report prepared annually by Environment Canada for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The freshwater quality indicator uses the Water Quality Index endorsed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment to summarize the status of surface freshwater quality. Quality is assessed by examining the extent to which water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life (plants, invertebrates and fish) are being met at selected lake and river monitoring sites throughout Canada.

This report is the result of an ongoing collaboration between Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and Health Canada. It has also greatly benefited from the cooperation and input of all the provinces and territories, which share the responsibility for environmental management in Canada. While there are policies and programs designed to address the issues tracked by the indicators, this Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators report is not intended to provide a summary or evaluation of these policies and programs.

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