The Manitoba government will break its own climate change law by failing to reduce greenhouses gases below its Kyoto target.

Conservation Minister Dave Chomiak admitted Monday the province will fail to meet its Kyoto emissions-reduction pledge.

"The fact is we've reduced our emissions. We just haven't reduced them as much as we would've hoped," said Chomiak.

The news follows a federal Conservative government announcement at the UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, that Canada will not to sign on to a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.


Manitoba Conservation Minister Dave Chomiak said a major program to fight climate change will be announced shortly. (CBC)

Three years ago, the provincial NDP government enshrined the Climate Change and Emissions Reductions Act to legally bind Manitoba to cut emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. 

Environment Canada data shows emissions in Manitoba have risen more than 18 per cent since 1990, but dropped slightly in 2009 during the global economic recession.

Chomiak said the target was not achieved, in part, because expected emission cuts from biofuels didn't happen and carbon credits for Hydro exports never materialized.

Environment watchdogs unimpressed

"I'm embarrassed," said Gail Whelan Enns, director for Manitoba Wildlands. "I thought I was from a province that was serious about reducing emissions."

Whelan Enns said Manitoba won international praise for its progressive climate change law. But now that the law will be broken, there won't be many consequences — the Act contains no penalties for failure to reach the target.

"You can't get rid of the Climate Act with a flick of the switch. Admitting they are not going to be on time is fine, but they have to tell us how they will reduce emissions," said Whelan Enns.

She believes Ottawa is backing out of its legal agreement to avoid financial penalties outlined in the treaty. But the Manitoba law, by contrast, has no penalties in it.

That's why, when the law was announced in 2008, former Premier Gary Doer famously quipped the government could be toppled by voters if the target wasn't met.

"If you don't achieve it, I suggest that the ultimate penalty in 2011 will be defeating the government," Doer said at a legislature press conference at the time.

The provincial election of 2011 came and went and the NDP increased its majority hold on the province.

New program coming

Chomiak said progress will come yet. He said to a major program to fight climate change will be announced shortly.

"What we'll do is we'll rededicate ourselves with some new actions and some new measures in the new year, and proceed from there."

Manitoba is still a signatory to the Western Climate Initiative, which commits several provinces and states to a "cap and trade" program. The idea is to force industrial facilities to reduce pollution by putting a market price on carbon.

Manitoba's emissions come from many sources but the largest two sectors are agriculture and transportation.

In April 2010, the auditor general of Manitoba reported a provincial forecast showing the province would miss its Kyoto target by 2.7 megatonnes.

A Manitoba government website suggests climate change will cause warmer and wetter winters, longer and drier summers, and more extreme weather such as heat waves, storms and droughts.