Canadian Environment Minister John Baird Thursday unveiled a plan that for the first time ever would force the country’s industry to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollution.

The new Canadian government will impose mandatory targets to reduce GHG and achieve an absolute reduction of 150 megatons by 2020, Baird said. Additionally, targets imposed on industry will aim to cut industrial air pollution in half by 2015.

“Canada needs to do a U-Turn, because we are going in the wrong direction. Since the Liberals promised to reduce greenhouse gases in 1997, they have only gone up,” said Baird. “Canadians want action; they want it now and our government is delivering. We are serving notice that beginning today, industry will need to make real reductions.”

The plan is titled “Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution.”

Industry produces about half of Canada’s GHG and air pollution. The targets for reducing industrial pollution, combined with other actions announced to date to tackle climate change, will turn things around, Baird said. The government recently said it will ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012.

“In as little as three years, greenhouse gases could be going down, instead of up,” he said. “After years of inaction, Canada now has one of the most aggressive plans to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollution in the world.”

Companies will be able to choose the most cost-effective way to meet their targets from a range of options: in-house reductions, contributions to a capped technology fund, domestic emissions trading and offsets and access to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Companies that have already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions prior to 2006 will be rewarded with a limited one-time credit for early action.

In addition to measures to reduce air emissions from industry, Baird said the government is committed to addressing emissions from transportation by regulating for the first time the fuel efficiency of cars and light duty trucks, beginning with the 2011 model year. “We will also strengthen energy efficiency standards for a number of energy-using products, including light bulbs, and for the first time ever, the government has recognized the urgent need to take action to improve indoor air quality and committed to implement measures to do so.”

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