The Kyoto Protocol, a specific protocol within the wider United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was ratified by Canada in 2002 and entered into force in 2005. Ratification means that the federal government has accepted the obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and will enforce them in Canada. Under different circumstances, there might still be some question as to whether the government was under an enforceable legal obligation to undertake action to comply with Canada’s Kyoto commitments. But the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 establishes that the federal minister of the environment must act to control “air pollution that violates, or is likely to violate, an international agreement binding on Canada in relation to the prevention, control or correction of pollution.” This was the basis on which, in May 2007, Ecojustice filed the initial lawsuit seeking a declaration that the federal government must act to ensure compliance with Kyoto.
It has been over five years since Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and we’re still arguing over how to fulfill our commitments. Although the federal government’s lack of action with regards to Kyoto has become more controversial since the Conservatives took office, leading to widespread criticism of Canada’s stance at the most recent Conference of the Parties in Bali, we’ve never had a government take decisive action to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ecojustice (the former Sierra Legal Defence Fund) is seeking to change that. On behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada, and in conjunction with the law firm of Paliare Roland, Ecojustice has filed a suit seeking for judicial review acknowledging that the federal government has failed to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and ordering them to do so.