Friday, February 29, 2008

Canada's Kyoto Commitments

I am still digesting all I learnt at the conference on Wednesday, but here is a small and self-contained item, namely Canada’s feeble response to its Kyoto commitments. This is not hot news, and frankly I am not sure why this had not come to my attention before.

Unlike the US, Canada ratified the treaty in 2002. In so doing, Canada made a binding commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. In January 2006, Canada elected a conservative government which had opposed Kyoto, but even before that Canada was seriously off-track. GHG emissions rose 27% between 1990 and 2004, whereas in the US (which has never ratified the treaty) they had gone up by ‘only’ 16%.

In 2006, Canada belatedly introduced legislation (Bill C-30, “The Clean Air Act”) to deal with GHG emissions. As far as I can ascertain this bill has still to pass into law, but I think it may be close. For an account of the legislative process through last June (I can find nothing more recent) see

More troubling, it has been amended over time to favor intensity-based targets rather than absolute ones. An intensity-based target limits GHG emissions per $ of GDP, and is ineffective for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it prevents Canadian companies from participating in carbon markets (for example the EU’s Carbon Trading System or buying credits under the Clean Development Mechanism to finance clean projects in China and elsewhere) and thereby getting the biggest bang for their buck. Rather than my repeating all the arguments see for a discussion of what’s wrong with intensity based targets.

(With the recent change in government in Australia, that country became the 107th country to ratify the treaty, which came into effect in 2005. There is a very useful Wikipedia entry on the efforts of various countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol at

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