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The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change, assigning mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to signatory nations. The treaty was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, opened for signature on March 16, 1998, and closed on March 15, 1999.

The basic objective of the accord is the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system". The goal is to lower overall emissions of six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs. Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases.

Canada and Kyoto

On December 17, 2002, Canada ratified the treaty that came into force in February 2005, requiring it to reduce emissions to 6% below 1990 levels between 2008-2012. While numerous polls have shown support for the Kyoto protocol at around 70%, there is still some opposition, particularly by some business groups, non-governmental climate scientists and energy concerns, using arguments similar to those being used in the US. There is also a fear that since US companies will not be affected by the Kyoto Protocol that Canadian companies will be at a disadvantage in terms of trade. In 2005, the result was limited to an ongoing "war of words", primarily between the government of Alberta (Canada's primary oil and gas producer) and the federal government. As of 2003, the federal government claimed to have spent or committed 3.7 billion dollars on climate change programmes. By 2004, CO2 emissions had risen to 27 per cent above 1990 levels (which compares unfavorably to the increase in emissions by the United States of 16 per cent by that time).

After January 2006, the Liberal government was replaced by a Conservative minority government under Stephen Harper, who previously has expressed opposition to Kyoto, and in particular to the plan to participate in international emission trading. Rona Ambrose, who replaced Stéphane Dion as the environment minister, has since endorsed some types of emission trading, and indicated interest in international trading.

On April 25, 2006, Ambrose announced that Canada would have no chance of meeting its targets under Kyoto, and would look to participate in U.S. sponsored Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. On May 2, 2006, it was reported that environmental funding designed to meet the Kyoto standards has been cut, while the Harper government develops a new plan to take its place. As the co-chair of UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi in November 2006, Canada and its government received embarrassing criticism from environmental groups and from other governments for its climate change positions.

Rona Ambrose

Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose announced in April 2006 that it would be utterly impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto target.