In 1997, Canada had a goal for reducing greenhouse gases

How exactly were we going to accomplish a six per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions? Opposition parties and the provinces wanted to know.

At Kyoto conference, government agreed to cut emissions by six per cent

A climate change plan in Kyoto

25 years ago
Duration 2:49
Canada pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent in 1990.

It was an admirable goal, to be sure.

At a global climate conference that had just wrapped up in Kyoto, Japan, the Canadian delegation had pledged to significantly reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions. 

Peter Mansbridge, hosting The National on Dec. 11, 1997, described the Kyoto Protocol as "a very real deal."

It was, he said, "an internationally binding pact on the environment."

Canada would have until the year 2012 to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels, a drop of six per cent from what it was then putting out.

A plan in name only

Leader of the Opposition Preston Manning said the effect of the Kyoto agreement to Canada could be thousands of lost jobs and a jump in the cost of gasoline. (The National/CBC Archives)

In the House of Commons that day, Deborah Grey of the Reform Party said the agreement was "not even worth the recycled paper that it's printed on." 

Her point was that without a specific plan, the pledge was little more than words. 

Her party leader, Preston Manning, got up to warn that thousands of jobs were at stake if a plan to meet emissions targets ever went ahead.

Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray pushed back. 

"We have confidence in the ability of Canadians to develop and apply technologies" that would cut emissions, he said.

An 'alternative' fuel could help

An Ottawa company was said to be working with Petro-Canada to develop an "alternative gasoline" that would cut down on harmful emissions. (The National/CBC Archives)

A case in point, said reporter Saša Petricic, was an Ottawa company that had developed a "gasoline alternative" and partnered with oil company Petro-Canada. 

Two provincial premiers were not placated.

"They can say all the things they want to say, but ... how do they propose to do it and at what cost?" asked Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

And Manitoba's Gary Filmon said the provinces' input had been ignored.

Brian Tobin, the Newfoundland and Labrador premier, was optimistic about the possibilities that could be tapped by the protocol's pledge.

"We have tremendous resources," he said. "Natural gas, hydroelectricity, which are undeveloped in this country, different parts of this country, which have to be brought on screen."

Petricic wrapped up by noting that the government's next step was to launch "a two-year series of consultations on how to reduce emissions."

After signing the accord in 1998 and ratifying it in 2002, Canada formally withdrew from the Kyoto Accord in December 2011.