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First Global Warming Lawsuit Filed Against Government of Canada

The environmental organization Friends of the Earth Canada is suing the Government of Canada for abandoning its international commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.  Filed in Federal Court in Ottawa by environmental law organization Sierra Legal, the lawsuit alleges that the federal government is violating Canadian law by failing to meet its binding international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The lawsuit is an application for judicial review and alleges that the government’s failure to effectively regulate greenhouse gases is likely to violate the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

This violation of international law contravenes section 166 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which states that Canada must abide by its international agreements in preventing pollution.

Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002, legally requiring a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels during the period 2008 to 2012: a target of 563 Megatonnes of greenhouse gases.

On 26 April 2007, the Canadian government announced its ‘Turning the Corner’ climate change strategy which set greenhouse gas reduction targets from industry and other sources to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020.  This would leave Canada approximately 39% off target with Kyoto in 2012 and would not achieve the Kyoto target until 2025 at the earliest. (Earlier post.)

Separately, Canadian Press reported that Environment Minister John Baird “was put on the defensive Monday after an attempt to sell Ottawa’s greenhouse gas reduction plan to his provincial and territorial counterparts was met with a chorus of disapproval.”

A number of ministers emerged from a closed-door meeting with Baird saying they were disappointed with the government for failing to set a hard cap on industries that produce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to see a national plan with national absolute caps... in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten.



How many signed Kyoto, How many will actually make it?


What I want to know is:

Did the Liberal party sign this treaty knowing that Canada's CO2 emissions were so much higher than they were in 1990? And what steps did they take to meet their obligations before the Canadian people voted them out of power?


Cervus: I've voted Liberal (center) more often than I've voted Conservative (right) or NDP (left), but I have to say: they pretty much did know how high the levels were. They signed it. Then they did butkus about it. (They did do a good job getting our budget deficit and debt under control after Trudeau (Liberal) and Mulroney (Conservative) spent us heavily into debt).
The current Conservative government is making lots of noise, but little progress. Nothing short of shutting down the oil sands projects would get us back on track. I can't imagine the Albertans (the producers) and the the Americans (the customers), allowing that to happen.



Sounds like they really put you in a serious bind--ethical and legal. What I know of Canadian politics mostly comes from a good friend in Edmonton.



Canada is comparable in size to US with 1/10 of population. And it is quite natural that Canada supplies 15% of US NG consumption, is #1 oil supplier to US, produces 30% of world Uranium, and export huge amounts of coal and all imaginable metals and minerals to thriving world economy. 1/3 of Canada stock market is energy and mining sector. Plus huge export of lumber and paper, electricity, and agricultural products. All these industries are very energy (and carbon) intensive. From 1990 to 2005 Canada substantially increased it population, and increased it GDP by 46%.

Kyoto agreement never had a chance to be fulfilled in Canada. Same holds for Australia. The only thing Canadian government could do is to increase energy and fuel use efficiency, which it is trying to do, but it is not apparently enough to Sierra Club.

Kyoto agreement does not have provisions for penalties for non-compliance. Actually, Canada can attach requirements for carbon credits transfer for every ton of exported energy and mineral products. If, say, Japan want to continue it multi-billion dollar import of Canadian metallurgical-quality coal, Japan should transfer enough carbon credits to cover emissions during coal’s extraction and transportation. This is the only way to level the field between resource producers/consumers and only consumers.


Cervus asks “Did the Liberal party sign this treaty knowing that Canada's CO2 emissions were so much higher than they were in 1990?” There is extensive evidence that the Liberal government was being deliberately disingenuous when it signed the Kyoto agreement. The quote below from the Edmonton Sun indicates that key members of the Liberal government viewed the agreement as a sham:

The previous Liberal government ratified the Kyoto Protocol knowing Canada wasn’t ready to take the tough measures needed to address climate change and would likely miss the deadlines for reducing emissions, says a top adviser to former prime minister Jean Chretien.
Canada’s emissions have actually risen some 35 per cent since 1990 according to the current Environment Minister. Canada has a massive and growing tar-sands industry with large environmental consequences. Of course, Canada is not the only country that signed Kyoto while substantially increasing CO2 output.



Pretty damning. They signed it without having any intention of honoring it, and now the Conservatives are stuck with it. Considering the problems the Liberals had with corruption that ended up being why they were voted out of power, this seems like par for the course.

If I understand Kyoto correctly the nations who could not reduce their emissions were supposed to be able to buy emissions credits from those that could, or from carbon credit-generating projects in other places. It evidently doesn't seem to be working as promised.


Stephan Dion certainly has his work cut out to convince anyone (me included) that he's "the man" for the environment with his track record. On the other hand we've got Harper ... Great choices eh?


Cervus if countries can buy credits it would suggest either no country has any credits to sell or Canada simply doesn't want to buy them. Which is it?



I don't know. This is why I'm asking Canadians what's going on up there.


The simple answer to the ethical side of the problem is withdrawing from the Kyoto treaty. (Only as far as the ethics of following through on committments. I know there are some here who view jogging or other exercise as ethically questionable because respiration and CO2 production rates increase.)

So if they withdraw from the treaty, then what?


For daily updated news on biofuels, ethanol and climate change issues, please visit:


Harper is afraid to stifle the economy, but he fails to take into account what will happen to the economy when the environment fails. Money is useless if you can't breathe the air or drink the water.

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