B.C. Air Quality

Clean Communities

Local and regional governments have developed a range of ways to minimize and manage air pollution. Among these, airshed planning has emerged as a key tool, creating an opportunity to integrate air quality initiatives with other aspects of community planning. Eleven airshed management plans are in place in the province, and more are in progress.

As part of the B.C. Air Action Plan, the B.C. government will continue to work with communities to improve air quality through the actions below. For detailed information, visit Clean Communities in the B.C. Air Action Plan's website.

Note (June 2012): The Air Action Plan was a three-year program that was implemented from 2007-2010.  Many of the actions listed below have been fully achieved and some initiatives have received further investments and support beyond 2010.

Action #22: The provincial government will be involved in airshed planning, in partnership with local and regional governments, health agencies, and environmental and community groups. It has developed new airshed-planning resources, such as the Provincial Framework for Airshed Planning, which sets out the key steps in the process and describes what types of government assistance are available. Other resources include the Air Quality Planning Tool and the Clean Air Toolkit.

Action #23: The government will work to make airshed planning part of community planning. Its new Smart Planning for Communities Initiative will promote a comprehensive approach to planning — simultaneously addressing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and local air quality. The $15 million initiative will be implemented over five years and includes funding dedicated to communities.

Other new strategies include:

  • Trees for Tomorrow, which will ensure that millions of trees are planted in backyards, schoolyards, hospital grounds, civic parks, campuses, parking lots and other public spaces across the province;
  • the Green Cities Project, providing communities with more resources to improve air quality, reduce energy consumption, and encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors; and
  • the LocalMotion Fund (part of the Green Cities Project), providing $10 million a year for bike paths, walkways and greenways, efforts to make the outdoors more accessible for people with disabilities, and incentives for local governments to make their vehicle fleets cleaner.

Action #24: The B.C. government is investing $1 million over three years into the Provincial Wood Stove Exchange Program, to replace older, inefficient wood stoves with new, cleaner-burning models. The initial goal is the exchange of at least 50,000 old wood stoves for newer, more fuel-efficient models or other clean-heat sources. This would reduce emissions of fine particulate matter by more than 3,000 tonnes per year — equivalent to shutting down 12 beehive burners. The long-term goal is eliminating the use all noncertified wood stoves by 2020.

Action #25: The government will strengthen the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, which limits allowable emissions. The new regulation will be done in 2009, expanding the regulation’s scope to apply to a wider range of wood-burning devices. See Proposed Changes to the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation.

Action #26: The government will refine the ways we manage wildfires. British Columbia is playing a lead role in developing the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy, and is working on a strategy specifically for B.C. One of the main goals is to balance fire suppression with the use of natural and planned burns — to ensure a healthy ecosystem while minimizing hazards to human health and the environment.

Action #27: The government will create a provincewide smoke-management plan. The plan will focus on improving burning practices, as well as fire, weather and smoke forecasting and tracking. It will complement the actions in the provincial wildland-fire management strategy.

Action #28: The Province is dedicating $600,000 over three years to advance air-quality research through the new BC CLEAR Fund. B.C. has a history of supporting research to advance the science of air quality, through partnerships with academic institutions, other levels of government and industry associations. Note: Funding for research is also available through the Robert Caton and David Bates Scholarships (not part of the B.C. Air Action Plan). For more information on research funding, see Air Quality and Health Research Funding.

Other Initiatives

Develop With Care 2012: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia. Supporting Information on Air Quality

"Develop With Care 2012" provides province-wide guidelines for the maintenance of environmental values during the development of urban and rural lands, and information on ways that environmental protection and stewardship can benefit the community, the property owner and the developer, as well as the natural environment. The guidelines include best management practices specific to avoiding or minimising the impact of land development on ambient air quality and promoting good air quality during community development. The scientific basis for many of these recommendations is included in “Supporting Information on Air Quality.”

Air Quality Health Index

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a new, national health initiative that provides hourly air quality readings and related health messages. People can make more informed choices about limiting their exposure to poor air quality and reducing their risk for health problems. As a lead partner in launching this program, the Ministry of Environment reports the AQHI in 14 B.C. communities, representing about 80% of British Columbians

Air Quality Monitoring Network

The provincial government is investing over $3 million in a provincial air quality monitoring network.

For more information, see: