October 1, 2007

NRTEE says Ottawa overestimates the ability of its climate change plan to meet Kyoto targets

The federal government's measures and policies for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as set out in its recently-released Climate Change Plan and accompanying statement, have probably overestimated the GHG emission reductions that will be achieved, and will not bring Canada into compliance with its Kyoto Protocol emission reduction targets, says the National Round Table on Environment and Economy (NRTEE).

In late August, the government released its Climate Change Plan and statement of measures and expected emission reductions (published in the August 25, 2007 edition of the Canada Gazette, Part I), as required under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act (KPIA, which, as Bill C-288, received Royal Assent in June). The KPIA requires the federal government to issue these statements annually for each year up to and including 2012. It also requires the NRTEE to respond with a research-based evaluation of the plan and statement and the likelihood that the measures and policies will result in the projected emission reductions.

The various initiatives contained in the plan fall into three main groups: changes to regulatory standards (e.g. for energy efficiency, fuel efficiency, renewable fuels content), policies for fiscal incentives and direct investments for GHG reduction (e.g. the ecoEnergy, ecoMobility, ecoTechnology and ecoFreight programs) and information-based activities (e.g. encouraging the use of public transit).

While all of these measures and policies will certainly result in carbon emission reductions during the 2008-2012 period, the NRTEE says the statement has probably overestimated the magnitude of these reductions, although it cannot state by how much with any precision. And given the government's policy of not participating in the purchase of certified emission reductions (CERs, also termed international credits), these domestic emission reduction measures and policies will not be enough, on their own, to enable Canada to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments, says the NRTEE response.

As the first in a series of responses to come, the document comments on related issues. The NRTEE points out that determining the likelihood of GHG emission reductions resulting from government policies and measures is a challenging task, subject to the vagaries of projections and assumptions that are themselves difficult to establish clearly. For future plans and statements, the Round Table recommends that the development and presentation of reasonably expected emission reductions should be based on transparency and clarity (with regard to key assumptions and methods); consistency across departments in terms of accounting for emission reductions over the relevant time period; and an integrated assessment of all programs to account for positive and negative interactions between measures and regulations in determining their overall contribution.

Finally, the NRTEE reiterates its call for a longer-term national climate change policy framework: focusing on the short-term Kyoto Protocol period alone for the purposes of its response has served only to reinforce the need for a longer-term approach, it says.

Meanwhile, the environment group Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal) and lawyer Chris Paliare have filed an application for judicial review with the federal court concerning the government's compliance with the KPIA. The action, filed on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada, alleges that the Climate Change plan and statement released by the government fails to meet the requirements of the act.

"We are simply asking the court to declare that the government is bound by the Act's requirements and to require the government to comply with it," said Paliare.

Ecojustice launched another lawsuit against the federal government in May, also on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada. That action alleged that Ottawa had contravened the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by not meeting its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. Following the passage of the KPIA-which, as a private member's bill, was unexpected-Friends of the Earth and the Ministers of Environment and of Health agreed to stay the litigation pending the outcome of the new act.

More information, including the text of the application, is available on-line at www.ecojustice.ca, or from Chris Paliare, 416/646-4318.

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