Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol on April 29, 1998, and it was ratified by the Canadian government on December 17, 2002. However, when the Conservative Party of Canada won the 2006 election (after four terms of the Liberal Party), the leadership of Steven Harper realized that the Kyoto targets had not been met. Canada was, in fact, far from its objectives. Between 1993 and 2005, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada rose about 25 percent higher than under the previous Liberal-led government.
As a consequence, the new Canadian government recognized in 2006 that the goal of the Kyoto commitments was not achievable until 2050 (missing the initial deadline of 2012). In 2007, the federal minister of environment, Rona Ambrose, explained that promises made by the previous government (the Liberal Party of Canada) were impossible to meet, and asked for a realistic compromise that would not disrupt the Canadian economy: "In the real world, the emissions reductions needed in Canada to achieve the Kyoto target are not technically feasible in that time frame," said Conservative minister Ambrose, adding: "That is why we need new targets and a new Kyoto framework."
In 2007, John Baird was named as the new Conservative environment minister by Steven Harper, although no changes in policy were decided in regard to the Kyoto target. The ministery at least acknowledges the existence of climate change as an important issue for Canadians.
In December 2007, Baird made a statement after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (Indonesia): "Climate change is a global problem requiring global solutions, and we've seen that with today's agreement. We have a track record of leadership on the environment at the G8, APEC, the Commonwealth and the United Nations." In early 2008, Baird also made a commitment in order to take action to help developing countries fight climate change.
As a political response, many provincial governments (equivalent to a state government in the United States), such as Quebec and British Columbia, declared they would independently strive to reach the initial target. Moreover, the establishment of a carbon exchange in Montreal (known as the Montreal Climate Exchange) has existed since 2003, including a special agreement with the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).
In 2008, polls confirmed that a majority of Canadians wanted their federal government to act in the spirit of Kyoto, although they do not always have a clear idea of the terms of the agreement.
Things might change in the future, as the former Liberal environment minister before 2006, Stéphane Dion, was leading the Liberal Party in 2008, the second-most popular party in Canada. An experienced politician, Dion cultivates an image of himself as a "Canadian Al Gore," dedicated to environment; he even named his dog "Kyoto."
According to the numbers from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee), Canada produced 133.9 millions of tons of CO2 in 1997, 4.42 tons per person. Comparative statistics show that countries, such as Japan and Russia, produce more CO2 overall, since their population is higher in number, but their average per capita is less than Canada. This per haps because Canadians live in very cold regions and enjoy a high standard of living. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stated that the CO2 emissions in Canada were 17.49 per capita in 2003. Only two countries, the United States and Luxembourg, had a higher ratio.
Since 2004, Canada has been led by minority governments, which means a more difficult position in terms of negotiating with other parties and the private sector. The protection of the environment has to rely on consensus. Each new initiative is often seen as "too little, too late," by environmental groups and leaders. On April 5, 2005, the government of
Canada and the automotive industry reached a landmark voluntary agreement to reduce annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canada's vehicle fleet by 5.3 megatonnes (Mt) in 2010, according to the Joint Government-Industry GHG MOU Committee, October 2007.
According to the Ministry of Energy of the Government of Ontario, Canada produces a third of the world's uranium. However, Canadians are not always in favor of nuclear power, which remains controversial, even among environmentalists. The province of Quebec uses only one nuclear plant and relies mainly on hydropower (Hydro-Quebec), while in the neighboring province of Ontario, nuclear power provides half of the power. Also located in Ontario, the Nanti-
coke coal-fired power plant is the largest station of its type in North America.
The Alberta oil sand deposits became an issue in the 1990s. Production costs are very expensive and oil can only be produced at a profit when a barrel is worth more than $60, which has been the case for more than a decade. Despite the controversy over energy resources, Alberta and Saskatchewan have become increasingly populated, requiring more energy supplies, and there are more interprovincial migrations toward these two provinces.
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