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
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
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
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
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.