CEMA focuses on issues that can be broken into broad categories, dealing with the impacts of industrial activity on the land, water and air:
Oil sands development has the potential to make significant changes to the landscapes, wildlife populations and habitats. CEMA is determining and recommending the best management tools available to protect, sustain, and restore the health of the landscape, vegetation, soil, and watersheds, while balancing industrial development and environmental considerations. CEMA also looks at the best measures and methods available to protect the environment in areas where reclamation activities need to occur.
CEMA’s work on water issues relates mostly to the health of aquatic ecosystems (rivers, lakes, streams, etc) and understanding how the natural environment is likely to respond to increasing oil sands development. CEMA is working to develop a system that minimizes the long-term environmental impacts on surface water quantity and quality so that the water systems will remain healthy.
The focus of CEMA’s air related research is to increase understanding of potentially harmful emissions. CEMA is working to assess the potential impacts of oil sands air emissions (i.e. discharges from smoke stacks) on the environment and recommend actions to keep the air clean and minimize the effects of emissions.
CEMA's reclamation work has been applying science and traditional knowledge to guide the return of boreal forest ecosystems in the oil sands region. CEMA produces and maintains guidance documents that provide recommendations and best practices to ensure that reclaimed landscapes meet regulatory requirements, satisfy the needs and values of stakeholders, and are environmentally sustainable.