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A version of the following article appeared in the Hill Times

The Commons Report: Don't listen to dark warnings on Kyoto commitments
Independent analysis has always shown that Canada can meet Kyoto targets


By Elizabeth May
January 31, 2005


Mark Feb. 16, 2005 on your calendar. Prepare to celebrate a big birthday. The Kyoto Protocol officially comes into force that day -- more than seven years after it was negotiated. It is not the longest gestation period for an international agreement. It has been decades for the Law of the Sea, although it enjoys status as customary environmental law. Still, as treaties go, Kyoto has had an uncommonly long time from conception to birth.

Meanwhile, instead of baking cakes, media and some lobby groups, have been sharpening knives. Reports that we are doomed to fail; that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets and never could, have been popping up all over. This rash of stories always seems to be traced to leaks somewhere in the bureaucracy. And the leaks appear to be from dueling forces. The first batch of leaks were clearly intended to undermine the government's claim it had a credible plan for Kyoto. The latter seemed to be geared to repairing that damage. Briefing notes, critiques, plans and something called "Project Green" have all been alluded to, somewhat darkly.

The truth is that independent analysis has always shown that Canada can meet Kyoto targets. We have clearly lost time and are behind the eight ball on delivery. The government must put forward a realistic plan very soon -- ideally on Feb. 16. The good news is that there are encouraging signs in the system that such a plan is under development. The Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee chaired by Industry Minister David Emerson is being, well, industrious. Environment Minister Stéphane Dion and Transport Minister Jean Lapierre did not go to California in January for their health but to do serious work on one of the indispensable parts of Kyoto delivery -- fuel efficiency

improvements in Canada's auto fleet. These and other signals are most welcome.

The lesson the government needs to learn from the first years of Kyoto implementation is that the voluntary measures are not working. We need to regulate appliances and cars to get energy productivity improvements. We need to ensure that industries carry their fair share. And, enough of making Rick Mercer a whipping boy on this... we do need to each take on the One Tonne Challenge.

A number of environmental group leaders sent Prime Minister Martin a set of clear messages on the necessary ingredients of a credible Kyoto plan. A credible, effective Kyoto plan must meet the following criteria:

1. The plan must associate clear and credible amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions to a set of specific government initiatives with clear implementation targets and timelines. The total emission reductions from these initiatives must be sufficient to meet Canada's Kyoto target over the period stipulated by the protocol, 2008-12. While we also believe Canada should adopt longer-term national targets for the much larger reductions in GHG emissions needed to prevent dangerous climate change, longer-term targets can in no way replace Canada's obligation to meet its Kyoto target during 2008-12.

2. The plan must consist mainly of regulatory initiatives and financial incentives, conditional on real emission reductions occurring during 2008-12. The evidence unequivocally shows that voluntary measures will not secure the emission reductions needed.

3. The plan must include a program of mandatory GHG emission targets and complementary initiatives for large industry (including the electricity sector), backed by legislation. Large industry accounts for approximately 50 per cent of Canada's GHG emissions. The mandatory targets and complementary initiatives for large industry must add up to a total emission reduction that is in keeping with this 50 per cent share of emissions.

4. The plan must not include payments into an R&D fund, or granting of R&D credits, as options for large industry to comply with its mandatory targets. These options would not generate significant amounts of emission reductions during 2008-12, and would therefore put the Government in the position of having to secure additional emission reductions elsewhere to comply with Canada's Kyoto target.

5. The plan must strongly prioritize domestic emission reductions. We recognize, however, that Canada will also need to rely on international emissions units to meet its Kyoto target. These international units must correspond to emission reductions that go beyond business-as-usual and meet established sustainable development criteria.

6. The plan must not include targets for industry for the period post-2012. The Government must not tie its own hands before future negotiations.

7. The mandatory targets for large industry must be set at a level that prevents any windfall allocations of emissions permits in excess of actual emissions levels to facilities in sectors such as gas-fired electricity or oil sands.

The next weeks will be critical for meeting Kyoto. The down-side is not failure in meeting international promises and a blow to reputation alone. But the down-side is continued, accelerated levels of erratic and disruptive climate instability.

Elizabeth May is executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.



 


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