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

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Canada’s Kyoto Protocol Targets and Obligations

Canada’s Commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the key multilateral environmental agreement through which national governments are cooperatively addressing climate change. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level low enough to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. A total of 192 countries have ratified the Convention, which entered into force in 1994.

The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which entered into force in 2005, commits signatory countries (Annex B Parties) to individual targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, 38 developed countries, including Canada, made commitments that would cut their total emissions of greenhouse gases on average between 2008 and 2012 to levels 5% below 1990 levels. Canada’s target is an average of 6% below 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period.

Canada has met, and will continue to meet, a series of requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. These include: providing financial assistance to developing countries so that they may endeavour to meet their commitments; submitting periodic “national communications” that include additional information to the information submitted to the UNFCCC; submitting a one-time “Initial Report under the Kyoto Protocol” to facilitate the operation of the first commitment period and describe the required infrastructure that Canada has in place; and, submitting a one-time “Report on Demonstrable Progress under the Kyoto Protocol” outlining the initiatives put in place in Canada to achieve its commitments under the Protocol.

Along with these submissions, Canada has also established a national inventory system for measuring and reporting emissions and removals of greenhouse gases and is establishing a national registry. The registry serves as a tracking system to ensure accurate accounting of the initial issuance of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions allowed in Canada, and the subsequent international transactions undertaken with other countries.

While Canada remains committed to meeting its reporting requirements under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, the focus of Canadian action on climate change is not on the remaining years of the Kyoto Protocol period.  The world is now turning the page on Kyoto and is focused on reaching a new agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.  As the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy notes in its response to the 2008 Plan, “climate change mitigation through emissions reductions is really a long-term problem.”

The Government of Canada strongly agrees with the NRTEE’s assessment. Although the UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, it is only in recent years that programs and policies have been put in place to begin to reduce Canada’s emissions, and their benefits will not be fully felt during the Kyoto period.  That is why Canadian action on climate change is focused on the future; on meeting the goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2006 level by 2020, and a 60% to 70% reduction from the 2006 level by 2050.

Timelines for Compliance with the Kyoto Protocol

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol began January 1, 2008, and ends December 31, 2012. Kyoto Protocol Annex B Parties are required to submit their annual greenhouse gas emissions data in the form of a national inventory report, the first of which will be due on April 15, 2010, with the final report for 2012 due on April 15, 2014. The degree to which a Party signatory has met its emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol will be assessed after its final report has been filed in 2014.

An Expert Review Team will examine and record each country’s total emissions for the commitment period (2008-2012), along with final accounting quantities for land use, land-use change and forestry activities. Once the Expert Review process has been completed for all Parties, a 100-day “additional period for fulfillment of commitments” will begin. This period is intended to provide Parties with the opportunity to undertake and finalize the transactions necessary to achieve compliance with Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol. The specific date when the 100-day period begins will be determined by the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol prior to 2014. Canada is engaged on an ongoing basis in these issues through standard UNFCCC processes.

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