A Climate Change Plan for the Purposes of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act -- May 2009

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Climate change is the most important environmental issue facing the world today. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, the current trend of global emissions growth needs to be reversed and put on a downward trajectory in order for the world to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change.

The path for Canada is clear and it requires us to address climate change by responsibly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions through policies that commit us to domestic, continental, and international actions. All of Canada’s actions to confront climate change will be undertaken with careful regard to the country’s economic circumstances and with the understanding that as Canada’s major trading partners, principally the United States, act on climate change, Canada is also moving forward with similar actions.

Since the Government’s last Climate Change Plan for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, released in May 2008, two major developments have occurred – the global economic downturn and the election of a new Administration in the United States committed to taking action on climate change. Canada’s approach to climate change must reflect the realities and opportunities associated with both of these developments. The Government is currently adjusting and strengthening its approach to regulating greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector in response and will announce the details of this approach later this year. The Government has a long-term vision, one that sees Canada mastering clean technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and successfully developing a range of clean energy alternatives.

In the November 19, 2008 Speech from the Throne, the Government announced its commitment to work with provincial and territorial governments, as well as other partners to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases. The Government also re-committed to the national objective of a 20% absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2020. To achieve this long-term success, the Government is implementing a balanced and sustainable approach and the upcoming changes to the climate change approach will ensure that we are on track to meet our targets. Canada’s domestic action will aim to reduce carbon emissions at their sources, which will involve improving the orderly transformation of capital energy stock to less carbon-intensive alternatives such as natural gas and non-emitting sources such as nuclear and hydro.

Ensuring the adoption of clean energy technologies is critical to meeting these targets and, as such, is a key focus of the Government of Canada. Canada’s Economic Action Plan commits $1 billion to clean energy research and demonstration projects, which, along with the efforts of Canada’s provinces and territories, will help to enhance our ability to make use of the country’s vast energy reserves without harming the environment.

Moreover, while 73% of Canada’s electricity is generated by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear and wind; the Government has set an objective of boosting this number to 90 per cent by 2020. The Government is also taking action to reduce emissions from the transportation sector by regulating the tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. Further, energy conservation is critical and reducing Canada’s emissions must also involve changes in how we consume and conserve energy in the country’s homes and offices.

The effort to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions can only be successful if conducted in a global context. Canada’s most crucial international relationship, especially in the context of climate change, is with the United States, given that our two countries share the world’s largest continental energy economy, as well as an environmental space.

In February 2009, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama agreed to begin a Clean Energy Dialogue, the most significant development in continental, environmental and energy policy since the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Clean Energy Dialogue will focus on three critical areas: expanding clean energy research and development; developing and deploying clean energy technology; and, building a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable generation.

Along with this continental approach, Canada is committed to working with the international community through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to produce a new international protocol to reduce carbon emissions at the December 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Canada is participating in the Major Economies Forum launched by the United States to facilitate a candid dialogue among key developed and developing countries to help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome in Copenhagen.

Canada is actively and constructively engaged in ongoing negotiations toward a new international agreement and maintains the position that a new agreement should balance environmental and economic concerns, maintain a long-term focus, promote the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies and engage all major economies.

This Plan outlines many of the existing domestic actions that the Government of Canada is taking to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. These actions will be supplemented with additional efforts that will be introduced this year and will be coupled with progress in working continentally and internationally to respond to the challenges of climate change and clean energy.

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