Laser Talk #19: A Graceful Solution to a Global Problem

From November 11th to 22nd, 2013, the world’s attention turned towards the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Warsaw, Poland.(1)

The Kyoto Protocol is an international binding agreement linked to the UNFCCC. Canada has been widely criticized for being the first and the only nation to have backed out of the Kyoto Protocol. They officially did so on December 13, 2011.

The oft-cited reason Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol was because the USA never signed it. “If the Americans move we’ll move in lock-step with them because of the integrated nature of the economies,” said Fen Hampson in December 2011. At that time, Hampson was the director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.(2)

After the US failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol at the UNFCCC meetings in Copenhagen in 2009, Canada and the USA signed the Copenhagen Accord, an international non-legally binding agreement that had much weaker greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.(3) We agreed to go 17% below our 2005 GHG emission levels, just like the US.

Reducing our GHG emissions is one area in which Canada is not moving lock-step with the USA. Between 1990 and 2011 Canada’s GHG emissions grew by 18.7% whereas the US emissions grew by 8.4%. In 2010 and 2011, Canada’s GHG emission slightly grew and we are currently only 28% of the way towards meeting our Copenhagen Targets (4, 5) and according to Environment Canada data it is apparent Canada will not meet its Copenhagen targets even with the oil and gas regulations that have yet to be enacted.(6)

Most provinces are decreasing their GHG emissions, especially Ontario. By far the largest increase in emissions has come from Canada’s oil sands, which have risen 62% since 2005. It is logical to conclude that the oil sands will continue to struggle with social license and market access barriers related to their high carbon intensity and Canada’s continued failure to meet its emissions targets.(7)

Canada does not need to move in lock-step with the US government on climate change. We can create our own national solution, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing our economy by integrating our clean technology industry through all other industries. A revenue neutral price on carbon with border tax adjustments would allow Canada to gracefully turn the page and finally act effectively on climate change while supporting the burgeoning clean tech sector.

(1) Official website

(2)  Analysis: Canada’s withdrawal began when Bush bolted (December 13, 2011)

(3) Flaws of the Copenhagen Accord Revealed ( David Suzuki, February 4, 2010)

(4) “Our Greenhouse gas policy is your Greenhouse gas policy” (National Post February 25, 2013)

(5) 2013 UNFCCC National Submissions

(6) Canada falling short on emissions goals – Environment Canada report. Globe and Mail (October 24, 2013)

(7) Tales from the National Inventory: a look at Canada’s latest greenhouse gas emissions report (PJ Parthington, Pembina Institute April 2013)


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