Canada's climate stance likely to spark controversy

Canada expects to face international pressure at upcoming climate change talks over its refusal to sign onto a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, says Environment Minister Peter Kent.

New funding for climate change adaptation

Canada expects to face international pressure at upcoming climate change talks over its refusal to sign on for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

Canada has already declared that it will not renew its Kyoto commitment "however acute the international pressure," Kent said during a speech hosted by the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Tuesday.

The speech precedede this year's United Nations climate change talks, known as COP 17, which begin Nov. 28.

"We will only support climate change agreements that are signed and ratified by all major emitters," Kent said, making reference to the fact that developing nations had minimal obligations to reduce emissions under Kyoto and the U.S. had signed but not ratified the agreement.

"It's a straightforward, practical approach. However, it's also an approach that's likely to cause some turbulence for us in the coming weeks."

In fact, Kent said, he had already experienced some of that at some of the pre-meeting meetings.

Climate change adaptation

Here is how the $148.8 million in climate change adaptation funding will be distributed:

  • $29.84 million for Environment Canada’s Climate Change Prediction and Scenarios Program.
  • $16.55 million for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program.
  • $2.41 million for Parks Canada toward Understanding Climate-Driven Ecological Changes in Canada’s North.
  • $8.5 million for Health Canada’s Heat Alert and Response Systems.
  • $10 million for Health Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation for Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities.
  • $12 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada for Preventive Public Health Systems and Adaptation to a Changing Climate.
  • $20.02 million for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Climate Adaptation and Resilience Program for Aboriginals and Northerners.
  • $3.5 million for Industry Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, for Integrating Adaptation into Codes and Standards for Northern Infrastructure.
  • $35 million for Natural Resources Canada toward Enhancing Competitiveness in a Changing Climate.
  • $10.99 million for Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative.

The Kyoto Protocol was formally adopted in 1997, came into force in 2005, and set firm targets for 37 industrialized nations, including Canada, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to global climate change. It was signed but not ratified by the U.S.

In 2009, United Nations climate change talks led to the creation of the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding agreement by both developing and industrialized nations to set new targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kent said Canada's new commitments under that agreement were deliberately harmonized with those of the U.S., which "makes sense given the integrated nature of our respective economies and environments."

"As a Government, our principal job is to make the best decisions possible for Canada and Canada’s specific environmental, economic and social context," he added.

Carbon tax

In response to questions from the audience, Kent reiterated the federal government's position against imposing a carbon tax in Canada such as the one passed by Australia's Senate on Tuesday. He added that the government also doesn't believe in systems that allow for the capping and trading of emissions "where so many countries have met their commitments by merely buying hot air from depressed Eastern European economies."

Kent also used his speech Tuesday to announce $148.8 million over five years for climate change adaptation, to be distributed through 10 programs in nine departments. That will allow those programs to continue and in some cases, expand.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by  2012. This past October, Scott Vaughan, federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, reported that he thinks "it's next to impossible that Canada is going to be able to reach its Kyoto target."

Under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada committed to reducing emissions by 17 per cent below its 2005 level by 2020. Kent said Tuesday that Canada is about 25 per cent of the way to its target.

A report released earlier this week by the Geneva-based International institute for Sustainable Development said that with the help of provincial programs, Canada is about halfway to that goal. In order to make up the difference, it suggested introducing emissions targets for industries it hadn't intended to regulate and establishing a domestic program in which companies would purchase offsets when they can't meet their targets.