Press release

Putin signs on the dotted line; Kyoto Protocol comes into force in 2005

November 4, 2004

The Canadian government must act now to ensure Kyoto target is met

WINNIPEG — After two years of careful political maneuvering, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed his country's Kyoto Protocol ratification papers, paving the way for the Protocol to come into force in early 2005. For Canada, and other countries facing strict greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, little time remains to meet our Kyoto targets.

"Finally the logjam has been broken," says David Runnalls, President and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), "President Putin's action today means that much of the world now has binding commitments for reducing emissions and dealing with climate change."

While the Canadian government recently reiterated its commitment to meeting its Kyoto target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2008–2012, it did not provide a timeline for the development and implementation of an achievable national plan that will enable it to meet this commitment. It is increasingly obvious that the ongoing delays in effectively implementing the 2002 Climate Change Action Plan for Canada have not reversed Canada's historic pattern of continually growing emissions.

The evidence is overwhelming that immediate action is needed:

  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in its 2004 Environmental Performance Review of Canada, indicates that Canada's energy intensity per unit of gross domestic product is the highest in the OECD. The lead recommendation in the review is that Canada should, "further elaborate and aggressively implement the Climate Change Plan for Canada, using a broad array of policy instruments (including emissions trading and other flexibility mechanisms) to ensure that GHG targets are met effectively and efficiently."

  • According to figures released in September 2004 by the U.S. and Canadian governments, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 14 per cent since 1990 while Canada's emissions have increased by 20 per cent.

  • Media reports on the disagreement between Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada over stringent vehicle emission regulations point to deeper interdepartmental divisions and a lack of consensus among departments on climate change actions.

  • The U.S. Government's Energy Information Administration indicates that Canada's per capita energy consumption is the highest in North America and far higher that European Union countries.

There are several actions IISD suggests the Canadian government pursue:

  • Finalize and put in place legislation supporting the establishment of an emissions trading system for Canadian industrial emitters.

  • Work with industries that have proactively taken action and reduced emissions by adopting energy conservation, technological innovation and the shift to more climate-friendly sources of energy to encourage wider industry buy-in.

  • Develop an international strategy using Kyoto Protocol flexibility mechanisms to ensure the use of strategic investments that will enhance Canada's technologic know-how and export market opportunities.

  • Not shy away from obtaining a greater proportion of its reductions through the global carbon emissions marketplace.

"The importance of the Protocol coming into force is that it means the value of carbon is solidified in the international emissions market," says John Drexhage, Director of Climate Change and Energy at IISD.

"What we will soon see, as a result of Russian ratification, is the dawning of the carbon market. This is one of the most significant accomplishments of the Protocol—it has created an international monetary value for carbon—and that, for business, will make a difference to the bottom-line," Drexhage adds.

By continuing to delay action domestically and internationally, Canada risks missing the boat on fostering technological innovation in energy efficiency, renewables and energy distribution; losing further competitive advantage to trading partners; and foregoing training and job opportunities for Canadian workers. It must better articulate an international strategy that will ensure the use of strategic investments that will enhance Canada's technologic know-how and export market opportunities.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.