Legal battle over Canadian Kyoto failures

Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) Canada launched a lawsuit earlier this week against the country's Conservative Government for its failure to meet international commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Because climate change is the most urgent crisis ever facing the planet, Friends of the Earth is resorting to the courts to require the federal government to respect its Kyoto promises,” said Beatrice Olivastri, chief executive officer of Friends of the Earth Canada.

“We must see an end to important programmes being dismantled, terminated and slashed – all part of the pattern of Kyoto denial by the federal government.”

Environmentalists say that Canadians come second only to Austria in abandoning the commitment to Kyoto targets, with greenhouse gas emissions at more than 34% above the 6% reduction target.

The lawsuit launched in federal court, relies on a clause in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) that requires Canada to prevent air pollution that violates an international agreement binding.

FoE Canada referred to a legal opinion presented to the Canadian government in October 2006 indicating the country has failed to show “demonstrable progress” in achieving its target as required by 2005.

Earlier this year, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a “Turning the Corner” climate change strategy which set greenhouse gas reduction targets from industry and other sources to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020.

The announcement was dismissed by FoE Canada, saying this would still leave Canada about 39% above the Kyoto target for 2008-2012, and that Canada is second only to Austria in the “staggering size of its failure to meet its Kyoto target.”

“Canada has become the first country to be sued for breaching the Kyoto Protocol,” said Peter Roderick, co-director of the Climate Justice Programme, which supports the FoE Canada initiative.

“Canada ‘s Kyoto performance has been so abysmal that enforcement of her own legal rules is necessary to help stop her traditional reputation as a good international citizen from slipping further.”

Dana Gornitzki

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie