Canada and climate change

Publication - March 25, 2008
Canada has not been active in fighting climate change. Successive federal governments have promised action on climate change, but delivered little or nothing.

Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002, and in doing so promised the world Canada would help fight climate change by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Instead, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. Now, they are more than 30 per cent higher that the target Canada is supposed to meet by 2012.

In January 2010, the Harper government announced more disturbing news on its lack of commitment to fighting climate change. The Harper government made public a new target that would mean Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions would be about 2.5 per cent above 1990 levels in 2020, even worse than its previous target of three per cent below 1990 levels. Greenpeace says Canada must adopt science-based targets and reduce emissions by at least 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.

The Harper government sets inadequate reduction targets because it intends to allow greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands to increase dramatically. Tar sands emissions are already the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The announcement of a new climate change target by the Harper government was made to fulfill a condition of the Copenhagen Accord that called on Canada and other parties to the Kyoto Protocol to further strengthen their reduction commitments.

The Copenhagen Accord is a non-binding document that came out of the failure of the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen to adopt a fair, ambitious and binding agreement to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Greenpeace is lobbying the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 30 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. We have also set a future target of 70 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. In the short term, we are asking the federal government to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the Kyoto commitment period of 2008 to 2012.

Greenpeace has advanced a number of strategies for Canada to meet our Kyoto commitment including:

  • Enforce real rules and give incentives for reductions. The government relies primarily on voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To really reduce Canada’s climate impact, we need mandatory regulatory measures and powerful incentive programs.
  • Force polluters to take responsibility. Tough mandatory caps must be placed on all large industrial polluters including the electricity sector. In addition, an effective emissions trading system should be put in place. Today, large industrial polluters are responsible for half of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace believes they should be responsible for half the reductions.
  • Don’t trade away the problem. Under the Kyoto Protocol, polluters can purchase emissions credits from other countries. That means we can trade our pollution for another country’s reductions (or the low emissions rate they already have). Greenpeace believes Canada should not place too much emphasis on Kyoto’s flexibility mechanisms. We should work to solve the problem, not to trade it away.
  • Stop subsidies for dirty power. Canada should not provide support for fossil fuels or nuclear power. These subsidies should be transferred to green energy and energy efficiency.