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Issue - The Kyoto Protocol and Canada

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Dateline: 05/21/06

The Kyoto Protocol Issue in Canada

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement reached in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to address the problems of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998, and after a Parliamentary debate formally ratified it in December 2002. The Liberal government at the time agreed to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by the five-year commitment period of 2008 to 2012. The Canadian Conservative government elected in January 2006 says that the Kyoto Protocol targets are unrealistic and unachievable. The government plans to focus on developing "made-in-Canada" solutions, to spend all money for the environment on the Canadian environment rather than on international credits, and to put the emphasis on the development and deployment of clean technology.

Latest Developments

  • CBC reports that 40 percent of the climate change budgets at Environment Canada and Natural Resources have been cut. Programs cut include the One Tonne Challenge, a high-profile public education campaign on climate change, and the popular EnerGuide Retrofit Incentive Program of grants to help make Canadian homes more energy-efficient.

  • Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose have been expressing interest publicly in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, also called AP6 or Kyoto Lite, as an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol.

  • Rona Ambrose has come under fire from both political and environment opponents who say she is trying to sabotage negotiations on the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

Background

  • The Kyoto Protocol is a UN-led international agreement reached in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to address the problems of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol went into force in February 2005.

  • The Kyoto Protocol involves moving away from fossil fuel energy sources - oil, gas, and coal - to renewable sources of energy - hydro, wind and solar power - and to less environmentally harmful ways of burning fossil fuels.

  • Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are mainly generated by burning fossil fuels. Higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming and climate change.

  • The Kyoto Protocol commits 38 industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-2012 to overall levels that are 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. Targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction were established for each industrialized country. Developing countries including China and India were asked to set voluntary targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The Canadian target for the Kyoto Protocol is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six percent below their 1990 levels by 2012.

  • The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and in February 2002 introduced the Clean Skies and Global Climate Change initiatives, in which targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are linked directly to GDP and the size of the U.S. economy.

  • In April 2005, the Liberal government issued a revised implementation plan and pledged $10 billion to cut greenhouse gases by 270 megatonnes a year by 2008-2012. Emission targets for large industrial polluters were relaxed.

  • During the 2006 federal election campaign the Conservatives said they did not support the Kyoto Protocol. However, since winning the election with just a minority, the Conservative government members have been a little more circumspect in their comments, and instead talk about the targets being unrealistic or unachievable.

Continue: What Supporters and Opponents Say

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