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In Depth

Kyoto and beyond

Canada-Kyoto timeline

Last Updated Feb. 14, 2007

A Canada goose stands on railway tracks as a steel plant operates in the background in Hamilton, Ont. (Kevin Frayer/CP)

Canada was one of the first countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol, on April 29, 1998. Formal ratification came more than four years later � on Dec. 17, 2002.

But Canada's continued participation in Kyoto seemed certain to end with the election of a minority Conservative government on Jan. 23, 2006. Part of the party's platform was to ditch Kyoto and come up with a made-in-Canada approach to reducing the emissions blamed for global warming.

And when the Conservatives tabled their first budget on May 2, 2006, it contained no mention of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, the budget merely repeated the earlier Harper government pledge to develop a "made-in-Canada" climate change program that would cost $2 billion over five years. Beyond that, however, there are few details. In October 2006, the government said it would introduce a Clean Air Act focused on cutting smog. There was no mention of Kyoto.

In adopting Kyoto, the previous Liberal government pledged that Canada would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by the five-year commitment period of 2008 to 2012. Canada�s 2002 climate change plan committed the country to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 240 million tonnes a year by the end of 2012. It proposes a three-stage strategy to achieve that goal through a combination of incentives, regulations and tax measures.

On March 31, 2006, environment minister Rona Ambrose told a Vancouver audience that since ratifying Kyoto, Canada's "greenhouse gas emissions are up by 24 per cent � a far cry from the previous government's commitment to meet a target six per cent below the 1990 levels."

"And that is why we are taking action to clean up our own backyard right here within our borders � local action for global change."

Ambrose said the government would introduce its own Clean Air Act that would focus on achieving tangible results. Part of the plan would be to encourage people to take public transit by offering tax breaks on monthly transit passes and increasing the average ethanol content in gasoline and diesel fuel to five per cent by 2010.

Ambrose later endorsed the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol backed by the United States, Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea. The pact's emissions reductions targets are voluntary.

The Canada-Kyoto timeline:

1987
March 16: Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer signed in Montreal. Treaty bans CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) in developed countries by 1995 and everywhere else by 2010.

1988


June 27-30: Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere calls threat from climate change �second only to a global nuclear war� and calls for 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2005.

1997


Dec. 11: More than 160 nations gather in Kyoto to negotiate binding limits on greenhouse gases in the developed world. Agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, calls for a reduction of five per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the 2008-2012 period.

1998


April 29: Canada signs Kyoto Protocol, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by the commitment period ending in 2012.

2000


Oct. 6: Federal government brings in its �Action Plan 2000 on Climate Change� in which it commits $500 million on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

2001:


March: U.S. President George W. Bush says the U.S. will not ratify Kyoto, calling it economically irresponsible.

2002


Feb. 14: U.S. President Bush unveils �Clean Skies� initiative that targets acid rain and air pollution, rather than specific greenhouse gas emissions targeted by Kyoto. Initiative proposes to directly tie cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to growth of GDP.

Nov. 21: Federal government formally releases its Climate Change Plan for Canada. Plan promises annual cuts of 240 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Dec. 17, 2002: Canada formally ratifies Kyoto Protocol, with the Liberal government calling it �an important milestone in Canada's contribution to addressing climate change.�

2003


Aug. 12: Ottawa pledges $1 billion more for its climate change plan, offering incentives to consumers and industry. Total federal spending on Kyoto reaches $3.7 billion.

2004


March 26: Canadian government issues �One Tonne Challenge,� which calls on every Canadian to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a tonne a year through such things as taking public transit more often, composting food waste, and using programmable thermostats.

April 12: Environment Canada releases 2002 greenhouse gas inventory. Report shows Canada emitted 731 million tonnes of greenhouse gases that year, up 2.1 per cent over 2001, and 28 per cent above the Kyoto target of 572 million tonnes it must reach by 2012.

Sept. 30: Russia approves Kyoto and later formally ratifies it, giving the protocol enough support for it to go into force in February 2005.

December: Canada finally abandons attempt to win emission credits for exporting clean natural gas and hydroelectric power to the U.S.

2005


January: Several media organizations say Ottawa is about to announce a revamp of its 2002 Kyoto implementation plan.

Feb. 16: Kyoto Protocol formally goes into force. Canada still has not released details of how it will achieve its Kyoto commitments.

March 23: The federal government and Canada's car makers reach an agreement on emissions standards. Automakers agree that its new vehicles will cut emissions by 5.3 megatonnes by 2010 as part of Ottawa's Kyoto plan.

April 6: The minority Liberal government offers to pull a controversial provision dealing with the Kyoto accord from its budget bill. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Qu�b�cois have all said they would vote against the budget because of the provision, which would make greenhouse gas emissions a controlled substance so Ottawa could regulate them. In order to appease the opposition, Liberal House leader Tony Valeri offers a deal to Conservative House leader Jay Hill that will allow the finance committee to reject the proposal.

April 13: The federal government announces details of its Kyoto implementation plan, which revamps the plan it put in place almost three years earlier. The government pledges $10 billion to cut greenhouse gases by 270 megatonnes a year by 2008-2012. The plan relaxes emission targets for large industrial polluters.

April 14: Environmentalists say parts of Ottawa's new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be good for the Atlantic region. The Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada says promoting the use of alternative energy sources is ideal because Atlantic Canada has a high wind potential. But they're disappointed with the targets set for large polluters. Large companies create almost half of the country's emissions, but they are only required to reduce them by about 14 per cent.

A Yukon environmental group says federal plans fall far short of what's needed. The Yukon Conservation Society says the government is only promising to consult with large firms that produce about 50 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, rather than force them to cut their CO2 production.

Nov. 3: Alberta files a formal objection to the federal government's plans to implement the Kyoto accord and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Alberta has long opposed the Kyoto accord, saying it will hurt the province's lucrative oil and gas industry. Provincial Environment Minister Guy Boutilier says Alberta should be allowed to put its own legislation in place to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

2006


Jan. 23: The Conservatives win a minority government, unseating the Liberals. Part of the Conservatives' platform was scrapping Canada's Kyoto commitments.

March 31: Environment Minister Rona Ambrose tells a Vancouver audience that the government will be introducing legislation containing "made-in-Canada" targets in the fight against air and water pollution.

April 5: Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn tells CBC News that the government has cut funding to several climate change programs. They include the much-publicized One Tonne Challenge, 40 public information offices across the country and several scientific and research programs on climate change.

April 25: Rona Ambrose tells reporters Canada supports the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol which holds that emission targets should be voluntary and looks at developing technologies that reduce emissions.

Ambrose says she supports the pact because it includes China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto targets. The other member countries of the six-nation pact are the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

May 2: The Conservatives' first federal budget makes no specific mention of the Kyoto Protocol, but brings in a tax credit for the purchase of monthly transit passes.

Sept. 28: Canada's environment commissioner releases a report critical of the previous Liberal government, saying the country can't meet its Kyoto targets. However, she said the government should set new targets.

Oct. 10: The Harper government says it plans to implement a "made-in-Canada" plan that includes a Clean Air Act. The legislation will impose tough regulations on smog-producing industries. He said the plan would replace the current "ad hoc patchwork system." He did not mention the Kyoto accord.

Nov. 2: Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to send the Clean Air Act to a special committee for review after NDP Leader Jack Layton threatens to topple the government over the issue.

Opposition parties said they would vote against the bill, so it is now being reviewed by an all-party committee before the second reading.

Dec. 2: Liberals elect their new leader, Stéphane Dion, who served as an environment minister in the Jean Chrétien government. He is a strong supporter of the Kyoto protocol and announces his intention to focus on environmental issues in a post-victory speech.

2007


Jan. 4: In a cabinet shuffle, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is replaced by former Treasury Board president John Baird. The move is seen as a response to new Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's pledge to clean up the environment.

At the news conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when it comes to clean air and climate change the government is prepared to "drive this agenda to a conclusion."

Feb. 1: Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion tables a motion to make the Harper government reaffirm Canada's commitment to Kyoto, referring to "overwhelming scientific evidence" that climate change is the result of human activity.

Feb. 2: The United Nations releases a 21-page report that pinpoints human activity as a "very likely" cause of global warming. International scientists and officials hail the report, which states with a 90 per cent certainty that global warming is caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

After the report's release, Environment Minister John Baird said "real action" is needed on global warming.

Feb. 8: Environment Minister John Baird announces plans to introduce legislation that would regulate industrial pollutants as part of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act, to take effect in January 2010. Baird also said Canada will not attempt to meet Kyoto's greenhouse gas targets.

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