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Total environmental protection expenditures

In 2010, businesses operating in Canada spent $9.5 billion on environmental protection, up 9% from 2008 1  (Tables 1-1, 1-2, 2-1 and 2-2). The majority of these expenditures went to treating pollutants after they were created. Pollution abatement and control processes and waste management and sewerage services were the two dominant expenditure categories, accounting for just over half of the total amount spent on environmental protection in 2010 ($2.7 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively).

Oil and gas extraction companies led industry spending on environmental protection in 2010, with $4.0 billion in expenditures, followed by the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry ($1.2 billion).

Provincially, Alberta reported the highest environmental protection expenditures with $4.2 billion in 2010 (Table 3), surpassing spending in Ontario, the province with the next highest expenditures, by almost $3 billion. The higher expenditures in Alberta are largely due to the concentration of the oil and gas extraction industry in that province.

Total environmental protection expenditures by business size

Very large businesses (those with 1000 or more employees), accounted for 1% of all businesses in the survey population but 32% of the total environmental protection expenditures in 2010. Medium-size businesses, those with 100 to 499 employees, made up 75% of the population but accounted for 37% of the total environmental protection expenditures (Tables 4 and 6).

Very large businesses also had the highest expenditures for environmental protection on an employee basis, spending $10,987 per employee (Tables 5 and 7).

Capital expenditures on environmental protection

After slightly reduced spending in 2008 compared to 2006, businesses increased their investment in environmental protection, reporting $4.2 billion in capital expenditures for environmental protection in 2010. This was an increase of 10% from 2008 and 9% from 2006 2  (Chart 1). The largest share of environmental protection capital investments were for pollution abatement and control (35%) followed by pollution prevention (26%). These two activities also received the largest share of investments in 2008 and 2006.

Total capital investment in pollution abatement and control processes decreased 11% from 2008 to 2010 (from $1.6 billion to $1.5 billion), while investment in pollution prevention activities increased by 11% over the same period (from $965 million to $1.1 billion).

Despite the increase in capital investment for pollution prevention technologies in 2010, the amount spent was less than the $1.6 billion businesses spent in 2006. The higher investments in 2006 may have been in anticipation of regulations increasing restrictions on sulphur levels in diesel fuels.

With the exception of pollution abatement and control activities, investments in all other environmental protection activities increased from 2008 to 2010. Investment in waste management and sewerage services showed the largest increase - up $139 million - driven primarily by the oil and gas extraction industry.

Investments in environmental protection by the oil and gas extraction industry totalled $2.0 billion in 2010, an increase of 23% from 2008. Businesses in this industry increased their investments in waste management and sewerage, reclamation and decommissioning and pollution prevention activities.

The petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry also reported increased investments in environmental protection activities for 2010. This industry directed most of its investments to pollution prevention activities (48%).

In 2010, businesses were asked for the first time to report their capital investment in renewable energy technologies. Unlike investments for environmental protection, which are restricted to spending made in response to current or anticipated regulations, these investments include all investment made for renewable energy technologies regardless of whether it was made in response to an environmental regulation or not. Businesses spent $455 million in capital for renewable energy technologies in 2010. Investment was highest in biomass energy technologies which accounted for over three quarters of the total.

The majority of capital investments for pollution prevention and pollution abatement and control were directed at the prevention or reduction of emissions to air

Investments to prevent emissions to air totalled $666 million in 2010 (Table 8), representing 62% of the total capital invested in pollution prevention technologies and processes. Investment in the reduction and control of air emissions decreased from $1.3 billion in 2008 to $924 million in 2010 (Table 9); however, this category still received the largest share of these expenditures compared to other media (63% of total pollution abatement and control expenditures).

The largest investments in the prevention of air pollution were made by the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry. This industry reported $141 million in this category, accounting for 93% of its total capital expenditures for pollution prevention in 2010.

The largest investments in pollution abatement and control of emissions to air were made by the oil and gas extraction industry, followed by the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry. Compared to 2008, the oil and gas extraction industry reduced its investment in the abatement and control of air emissions in 2010, while increasing investments in treating emissions to surface water. This industry uses many water-intensive technologies to extract oil. The resulting waste water needs to be managed and treated before its release to the environment.

Operating expenditures on environmental protection

In 2010, operating expenditures for environmental protection totalled $5.3 billion, an increase of $404 million from 2008. Between 2006 and 2010, businesses reported increased expenditures for pollution prevention, pollution abatement and control and reclamation and decommissioning activities (Chart 2).

Waste management and sewerage services accounted for the largest share of operating expenses for environmental protection.

The oil and gas extraction industry reported the highest operating expenditures for environmental protection (almost $2 billion), accounting for 37% of total environmental protection operating expenditures. Businesses in this industry spent $794 million more than in 2008. The increase in operating expenditures may be due in part to an increase in the number of wells operating in 2010 3 .

The largest share of operating expenditures on pollution prevention and pollution abatement and control went to prevent or reduce emissions to air

In 2010, companies were asked to report their operating expenses on pollution prevention and pollution abatement and control by environmental medium. The largest share of operating expenditures went towards the operation or maintenance of equipment to prevent or reduce emissions to air, followed by emissions to water (46% and 41% of the total, respectively).

Operating expenditures for pollution prevention were directed mostly at the reduction of emissions to water (Table 10), while the majority of operating expenditures for pollution abatement and control were spent to reduce air emissions (Table 11).

Pollution prevention methods

In 2010, 58% of businesses in Canada reported that they used at least one pollution prevention method (Text box "Pollution prevention methods"). The top three most commonly used methods were: good operating practices or pollution prevention training; recirculation, on-site recycling, reuse or recovery of materials; and prevention of leaks and spills (Table 12).

Pollution prevention methods

The Canadian federal government defines pollution prevention as: "the use of processes, practices, materials, products, substances or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce the overall risk to the environment or human health." 4  Using this definition, the Survey of Environmental Protection Expenditures asked businesses to indicate which of the following pollution prevention methods were used in 2010:

  1. product design or reformulation
  2. equipment or process modifications
  3. recirculation, on-site recycling, reuse or recovery of materials or substances
  4. materials or feedstock substitution, solvent reduction, elimination or substitution
  5. improved inventory management or purchasing techniques
  6. prevention of leaks and spills
  7. good operating practices or pollution prevention training.

Environmental management practices

Environmental management practices are practices that businesses adopt to reduce their impact on the environment.

In 2010, 48% of businesses used at least one environmental management practice. The use of an environmental management system was the most commonly reported practice, followed by the implementation of a pollution prevention plan and the performance of an energy audit (Table 13).

For the first time, businesses were asked if they conducted a greenhouse gas inventory; 10% of businesses surveyed reported that they had.

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