Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has announced that the Conservative government will develop what she calls a “made in Canada” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — including a trading system — in place of current commitments negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol by the previous Liberals.
Ambrose stated that it’s unrealistic for Canada to meet the strict requirements of the existing pledge, and she also ruled out the idea of a government fund to help pay for the purchase of credits. She does plan to regulate large emitters such as power utilities and oil companies, that account for nearly half of Canada’s emissions.
Ambrose said a large part of the $2-billion earmarked for climate change in the May 2 budget will be directed toward developing new clean technologies, adding that it will take up to a decade years for industry to adopt new technologies: an emissions trading system will help companies adjust in the meantime. Experts say an emissions trading system could cover up to three-quarters of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and would be one of the easiest ways of reaching targets. Ottawa would set emissions goals for large polluters, and they would in turn be permitted to buy credits to help reach them (although in the long term it would be in their interests to permanently cut emissions). Such a scheme would likely be linked to international systems in the United States and European Union, which would allow Canadian emitters to use credits from abroad.
The Kyoto Protocol requires ratifiers like Canada to attain a reduction of 6 per cent below 1990 emissions levels by 2010. Canada’s current emissions are already 35 per cent higher than they were in 1990. For Kyoto targets to be achieved, Ambrose said every household in Canada would have to be shut down four times over.
Ms. Ambrose will not be in Ottawa next week, since she will be chairing a discussion of future action under the UN climate change program in Bonn, Germany. Environmental groups have called for her to resign as chairwoman, but she has refused, pointing out that Canada will still participate in the Kyoto Protocol and that Austria, Spain, New Zealand and Finland all have emission levels 20 per cent over their 1990 levels. Outside the Kyoto framework Canada is exploring joining the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which includes the U.S., India, China, Australia, South Korea and Japan. The Asia-Pacific agreement does not have the same stiff targets or penalties as Kyoto.