EcoLog Environmental Resources Group

Feds’ Kyoto Plan more of same


Courtesy of Courtesy of EcoLog Environmental Resources Group

The Harper Conservatives have released ‘A Climate Change Plan’ that purports to meet the requirements of Bill C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, pushed through by the Opposition in June 2007. Except that it’s pretty well identical to the Conservatives’ greenhouse gas reduction plan released in April 2007 under the moniker ‘Turning the Corner’. (See also the Legal Perspective column in the July, 2007 issue of newsletter on p. 3.

With the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Québécois Opposition required the government to produce, within 60 days of the Act coming into force, a report specifying how it was going to implement Canada’s Kyoto Protocol obligations.  The Act was the Opposition’s response to ‘Turning the Corner’s’ refusal to implement the Protocol.  And the Climate Change Plan repeats the government’s position that implementing the Kyoto Protocol will have disastrous effects on the Canadian economy, gas prices, and employment rate.  “Canada faces unique geographic and economic circumstances that must be considered in the development of a realistic plan to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the Plan says.

‘Deep recession’

“The Government’s analysis,” the document continues, “broadly endorsed by some of Canada’s leading economists, indicates that Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would decline by more than 6.5% relative to current projections in 2008 as a result of strict adherence to the Kyoto Protocol’s emission reduction target for Canada.

“This would imply a deep recession in 2008, with a one-year net loss of national economic activity in the range of $51 billion relative to 2007 levels. By way of comparison, the most severe recession in the post-World War II period for Canada, as measured by the fall in real GDP, was in 1981-1982.  Real GDP fell 4.9% between the second quarter of 1981 and the fourth quarter of 1982.”

Meeting Canada’s Kyoto Protocol target on the timeline set out in the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act would also have serious implications for energy prices, the Climate Change Plan says.

“Natural gas prices could potentially more than double in the early years of the 2008-2012 period, while electricity prices could rise by about 50% on average after 2010. Prices for transportation fuels would also inevitably rise
by a large margin — roughly 60%.”

Canada’s average and seasonal temperatures vary widely from region to region, the Plan says. Most of the country experiences short, hot summers and long, very cold winters. Canadian heating, cooling, and transportation needs therefore contribute to high energy demand and higher per capita greenhouse gas emissions.  And Canada also has one of the highest rates of population and economic growth in the OECD, and this trend is expected to continue into the future.  In these ways, Canada “stands out as an exception to the emissions trend in many other industrialized countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and assumed reduction targets,” the Plan says. “While most European Union countries and Japan have reduced or generally stabilized emissions relative to 1990 levels, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions have grown steadily since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997.”

Meeting the Kyoto Protocol emissions expectations would be disastrous to the Canadian economy, the government says.

Longer timeframes
What it proposes instead is emission reductions over a longer timeframe, tailored to the realities of the Canadian economy.

“The Government is convinced that the adjustments required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without negatively impacting the economy are manageable over a reasonable period of time, with an appropriate range of regulatory and market-based instruments to provide Canadian firms and individuals with the right incentives,” the Plan states.

“Under such an approach, and given a longer timeframe, firms and individuals could adopt currently available technologies that emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions, as well as implement new technologies with limited costs as existing facilities and equipment wear out and are replaced.”

Under the government’s alternative ‘Turning the Corner’ initiative, which consists of new regulations and complementary actions by provincial and territorial governments, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from all sources are expected to begin to decline as early as 2010 and no later than 2012, the Plan says.

The Plan says the government is committed to reducing Canada’s total emissions of greenhouse gases, relative to 2006 levels, by 20% by 2020, and by 60%-70% by 2050.

Protocol dilution?
But the government’s alternative schedule of reductions may not be simply a ‘made in Canada’ timetable that addresses uniquely Canadian realities.

At a major United Nations conference in Vienna at the end of August 2007, Canada played a ‘lead role’ in diluting the Kyoto Protocol itself, some environmental activists claim.

The meeting failed to come up with clear reduction targets for the period after 2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol expires.

Canada joined Japan, Russia, New Zealand, and Switzerland to nix a proposal that would firmly commit industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%-40% by 2020. These are the reduction figures that scientists say are absolutely necessary to avoid ‘catastrophic’ global warming.

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