November 21, 2005

Ottawa unveils new measures to reaffirm support for international action on climate change

The federal government will invest in a series of measures designed to support international action on climate change, including renewing and expanding the Canada Climate Change Development Fund, and funding key improvements to elements of the Kyoto Protocol, notably the Clean Development Mechanism.

The plans, announced November 17 by the federal Ministers of Environment and of Natural Resources, St├ęphane Dion and John McCallum, signal a reaffirmation of Canada's commitment to maintaining and expanding support for, and engagement in, the global effort to address climate change.

"This is in keeping with one of Canada's key objectives for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal," Dion said. "The Clean Development Mechanism must be efficient if it is to attract the necessary degree of interest from the market in reducing emissions, and supporting the sustainable development objectives of developing countries," he explained.

For his part, McCallum indicated the government's intention to invest in the creation of Centres of Excellence on Adaptation.

Building on the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network established in 2000, the Centres of Excellence on Adaptation will raise awareness of practical adaptation issues and will be primary developers of the relevant planning tools for decision-makers in federal, territorial and Aboriginal governments and business sectors.

A particular focus will be on adaptation issues in the Arctic, where broad impacts of climate change are already in evidence.

These Centres will also provide outreach to other countries in both the industrialized and the developing world, to share expertise and facilitate the development of centres within those countries.

In addition, a Canadian network of Centres of Excellence on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage will be created. It will co-ordinate existing domestic and international activities in CO2 capture and storage, and build on these activities through additional research.

"The Centres of Excellence on Adaptation and on CO2 Capture and Storage will build on existing Canadian expertise," said McCallum. "They will allow us to expand our research activities and better co-ordinate efforts here in Canada and make an important contribution internationally."

The government will also make a substantial contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, known as GEOSS, in support of Canadian projects and activities that contribute to this major international initiative. GEOSS serves to increase information and understanding about key areas such as Canada's ocean and coast environments, including the Arctic ice sheet. This in turn enhances the ability of Canadian experts to understand and predict environmental change in Canada, especially with regard to extreme weather events.

The public measures, announced as a lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal, supplement a great deal of behind-the-scenes work the Canadian government has been doing as it prepares to host the event, which will take place from November 28 to December 9. Known as COP11-MOP1, it represents the eleventh conference of parties to the UNFCCC and the first meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol since it came into effect this year following ratification by Russia.

One of the main outcomes of the meeting will be adoption by the Kyoto parties of rules intended to provide the framework needed to implement the protocol's first commitment period (2008-2012). It will address a system for tracking emissions reductions, a system for international emissions trading, and a compliance regime designed to encourage the parties to make every effort to meet their obligations.

Dion and other senior Canadian officials have been actively canvassing other countries on the steps to global action on climate change, including consultations with more than 40 key countries and a number of roundtables with international experts. And in late September, Environment Ministers and senior officials from 38 countries met to discuss critical issues that Dion said need to be addressed at the Montreal conference.

"We discussed three key points that need to be addressed in Montreal," he said. "We need to take action to fully implement our current commitments. We need to improve some key aspects of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention. And finally, we need to be innovative in our approaches to secure future action on a global level."

The basis for the discussions was a paper titled "Action on Climate Change: Considerations for an Effective International Approach." The document summarizes the current approach to addressing climate change and offers suggestions for building on this approach to make it more effective.

It points out that the Protocol provides for only one approach to commitments, namely national emission reduction targets adopted by developed countries on an absolute basis over five-year periods. A number of countries have indicated that they will not participate in the future if this remains the sole approach to meeting commitments.

It is noteworthy that the majority of the roughly 130 signatory countries do not, in fact, have set reduction targets; moreover, developing countries are not required to adopt specific targets until later - if ever. This is the "Achilles heel" of Kyoto, as China and India - two of the largest and most rapidly developing countries - are included in this group.

The Protocol's five-year focus for activities, adds the paper, means that countries may not allocate adequate resources for activities with longer-term benefits, such as technology development. The path forward, it continues, should make an effort to better address both environmental and economic goals, as well as development and adaptation objectives.

The paper proposes six key elements which it says could form the basis for effective, coherent global co-operation. Moreoever, it would not be necessary to wait until the post-2012 period to begin putting these elements into effect. They include: environmental effectiveness; advancement of developmental goals in a sustainable manner; broadening participation; building a strong global market; realizing the full potential of technology; and tackling adaptation issues.

The remainder of the paper elaborates on these elements, offering them as a starting point for future discussions on dealing with climate change, as well as a guide for strengthening the Protocol in the interim. The full text of the discussion paper may be viewed on-line at www.montreal2005.gc.ca.

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