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Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicator (CESI) reports are produced annually to track changes in air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water quality in Canada. The long-term goal of this report is to enable better decision making that fully takes into account environmental sustainability.

This report shows that pressure on Canada’s environment is steady or increasing, and highlights some of the potential consequences for the health and well-being of Canadians and our economic performance. The following summarizes the main conclusions drawn from the three CESI indicators:

Air quality

The ground-level ozone exposure indicator showed an average increase of 0.8% per year between 1990 and 2005, leading to greater health risks for Canadians. The fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure indicator demonstrated no statistically significant national or regional trends—either increasing or decreasing—in average exposure levels. This would suggest that there has been no change in the health risk associated with ambient PM2.5 exposure. 

Greenhouse gas emissions

The GHG indicator focuses on total national emissions of GHGs and shows that, in 2005, these emissions reached an estimated 747 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq), up 25% from the 1990 total of 596 Mt CO2 eq. The major sources of this increase were fossil fuel production, transportation and electricity generation.

Freshwater quality

This indicator shows that guidelines for protecting aquatic life are not being met, at least occasionally, at many of the 359 selected monitoring sites across southern Canada, based on information gathered from 2003 to 2005. The compilation of information from across the country demonstrates that jurisdictions can cooperate to sketch a national picture of water quality. However, this indicator is the only one of the three in this report that cannot show a trend at present. The length of the current CESI water quality data records are insufficient to detect significant national trends, although work is under way to address this gap.