Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee. I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this round table.
In my presentation I will be focusing on one topic, the question of tools for CEPA, and I'll really only be talking about one tool, industry responsibility programs. This is something that I think isn't used as much as it deserves to be used.
Last May when I appeared before you and discussed our CEPA review submission, we suggested that CEPA should explore differentiating between good and poor environmental performers more than it does, and using the act to support the use of what we called industry responsibility programs in order to recognize and encourage good-performing companies. We think those companies should be treated differently and more favourably than poorer performers. Guidelines and, in particular, pollution prevention planning requirements in the legislation could provide a means to do that, but that isn't being done nearly as much as it should be today. There may be other means as well, but those are the ones we'd like to focus on.
Criteria for using what we're going to call industry responsibility programs and the principles governing their design have already been well established, with broad acceptance by industry and NGOs. In the late 1990s, the New Directions Group put together a paper, “Criteria and Principles for the Use of Voluntary or Non-regulatory Initiatives (VNRI) to Achieve Environmental Policy Objectives”, which addressed and, I think, very successfully resolved a lot of these issues.
There's very broad consensus about going ahead on this approach between industry, government, and environmental groups. In fact, the federal government essentially adopted the New Directions Group principles in its Policy Framework for Environmental Performance Agreements, which it put out in 2001. In CCPA's view, that was a very good framework, but unfortunately we don't feel it's been applied as broadly or as often as it deserves to be.
There has been a number of successful examples of industry responsibility programs. From a chemical industry perspective, our Responsible Care initiative that I have previously described to committee members, I think quite a bit, we believe is a leading example. It applies to the chemical industry, and not broadly, but other sectors also have similar programs that they try to model after it.
Our Responsible Care program has also been the underpinnings of a memorandum of understanding or agreement the CCPA has had for about 10 years that involves the federal government, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and there are also public interest group representatives on it as well. The performance results of Responsible Care and what we look at through our memorandum of understanding are set out in the attachment that I've provided to the committee. I think it's been given to you.
I'll not go through this in any kind of detail. I'll leave that to you.
The first chart is an overview of our performance, both for the listed air pollutants in Bill C-30 and greenhouse gases. Looking at the percentage changes, both since we started tracking in 1992 and more recently last year, I'm sure you'll agree our performance is good. Similarly, I've talked about our climate change performance before this committee in the past and I think it's also good. There's more detail provided in the accompanying charts that back up those figures, and it also shows that generally our record is that we exceed our projections.
As I said, industry responsibility programs have also been used beyond the chemical industry. Probably the best broad example of a successful program is ARET, the accelerated reduction/elimination of toxics initiative, which concluded in the late 1990s. More recently, Ontario and Alberta have tried to develop programs along these lines: in Ontario, the environmental leaders program; and in Alberta, their EnviroVista program.
Problems with these types of programs to date have arisen when, in an effort to ensure that only the true leaders participate, sometimes overly restrictive and burdensome bureaucratic entry criteria are imposed by government. That makes it unattractive for companies to participate, and it would actually penalize and certainly not reward high-performing companies.
It might be worth paying some of this extra price if there were true benefits from these programs, but often there's only very vague recognition rather than any real benefit, such as a better permitting procedure or something like that. Ontario and Alberta are currently struggling in trying to address these issues in their respective programs, trying to create meaningful differentiation and real rewards for high-performing companies.
I think the federal government had the lead in this about five or six years ago, but I think it has been overtaken by the provinces now.
Encouraging industry responsibility programs through CEPA would, I think, also be very consistent with the 2004 Smart Regulation report. The report stated:
The federal government should develop a framework to guide the design and use of instruments and ensure that instrument decisions are appropriately challenged throughout the policy development cycle. The government should accelerate efforts to make the regulatory community more aware of the various instruments. Legislative constraints in creating mixes of policy instruments and using performance-based regulations should be eliminated.
I think we have an example of the legislative constraint in CEPA that I'll talk about later.
The Smart Regulation report described the challenge the federal government faces in being innovative in the use of instruments related to regulation. They noted the many benefits of choosing the most efficient instrument to accomplish legislative objectives, and they also noted the federal government has a strong tendency to choose only traditional instruments such as regulation, as opposed to a combination of instruments that would involve regulation, but also involve other approaches such as economic incentives, information, and challenge programs--the types of things we're referring to as industry responsibility programs.
A few of the more interesting recommendations in the Smart Regulation report were recommendations 22 and 23. These outline a need for the federal government to develop guidance and a framework on the use of various instruments and when they might be most effective, and the need to develop better understanding in the public service of the range of instruments available to respond to policy issues.
Over the years, we've had many discussions at CCPA about our success in Responsible Care. The question often emerges, why doesn't government do more to recognize this type of good initiative? That's a question that I think MPs and this committee should address in your CEPA review report. We would be very interested in the answer.
CCPA believes the reason that government doesn't recognize programs like Responsible Care, and its record is that often agencies like to simplify the world into what we would see as the false dichotomy of so-called voluntary versus regulatory programs. They dismiss anything that is not a standard regulatory approach because it is only voluntary: do it if you like. But Responsible Care is far from that. It's a program that goes beyond what is required. Our actions under Responsible Care are mandatory among our members. They involve reporting and verification, including independent verifiers. We think Responsible Care is the kind of initiative that can be considered in developing regulatory frameworks and linked to CEPA in various ways, such as pollution prevention planning.
Since the Smart Regulation report, has anything changed? We don't think so. We see no improvement in the administration of CEPA towards the kind of innovation the report recommended. The Clean Air Act and the notice of intent are probably the most recent examples. These do not look for innovative approaches beyond traditional regulation, and miss opportunities to use different tools that might be more effective. They do not provide in any way for recognizing high performers.
The government is proceeding to work with sectors like ours as if Responsible Care were irrelevant. This type of approach undermines the ability of our association to expand the application of Responsible Care to other companies. This is an example of the government missing an opportunity to reinforce high performers.
With CEPA under review, it would be useful, I think, to determine if the act has built in appropriate guidance and flexibility for the government to work with the full range of instruments, including industry responsibility programs.
In terms of guidance, we think the act could be improved here. We would urge the committee to recommend that the government consider adding some specific sections to the act that promote considering the use of industry responsibility programs but within the overall regulatory context of CEPA.
In terms of flexibility in the legislation, we think that is actually there but it's not being used. Pollution prevention planning is a tool in CEPA that could be used more, and more effectively, to support and promote industry responsibility programs. Environmental objectives could be set for our sector as factors to be considered in developing pollution prevention plans. What companies are already doing, such as under Responsible Care and our MOU and under provincial regimes, could be recognized under the pollution prevention plans.
We believe that for sectors like ours this would work very well. If the approach fails to work, or sectors don't have the kind of infrastructure and performance record that Responsible Care has given ours, perhaps regulatory approaches would also be warranted where necessary. But the government has not used its pollution prevention powers in the fashion that I've described. We're not sure if the powers in the act are the problem--we don't think so, because we think they're there to be used as I've described--or if it's a question of political will. I think that's where the real problem lies, and I think that's also what the Smart Regulation report was reporting to.
To conclude, CCPA urges that the committee recommend that CEPA be used to differentiate between good and poor environmental performers, and use the act to support the use of industry responsibility programs, such as Responsible Care, to recognize and encourage good-performing companies.
This approach would assist industry to be partners with the government when companies show leadership and high performance. From CCPA's perspective, our member companies, with their commitment to Responsible Care and their performance record, provide an example of the type of companies where such recognition would have been earned. Such an example would also encourage more companies and sectors to adopt initiatives similar to Responsible Care. We think that would be a significant environmental improvement in itself.
Thank you. I look forward to the discussions.