Kyoto Chaos: The Effects of Ratification in Canada

By Taylor, Leah | Canadian Speeches, January-February 2003 | Go to article overview

Kyoto Chaos: The Effects of Ratification in Canada


Taylor, Leah, Canadian Speeches


The debate over the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol still rages, despite its recent ratification in Canada. Both opponents and proponents agree that Canadians will pay a price. As the earth's temperature increases, the cost will be job losses and higher energy costs. The estimate of how much it will cost varies greatly. The question is, will implementing Kyoto cost Canadians more, or less? The true consequences of Canada's ratification are yet to be determined.

The world is heating up, and so is the debate in Canada over the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty agreed to in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, requires countries around the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Scientists the world over confirm that greenhouse gases created by people are causing the earth's temperature to rise at drastic rates, with threatened disastrous effects on the environment and humankind.

But, while the science is predominantly agreed upon, the methods for stabilizing or reducing the rate of climate change is hotly debated in Canada and the world.

Proponents of the Kyoto Protocol claim that it is the only way to produce change. They argue that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will not only benefit Canada's vast forests and natural resources, but the health of Canadians and the health of our economy, long term.

Opponents view the Kyoto Protocol as a recipe for an economic catastrophe, with little real effect on global climate change or the health of Canadians. Many argue that there are alternative methods that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions without damaging the economy.

The outcome is still uncertain.

Understanding the Kyoto Protocol

In December 1997, more than 160 countries, including Canada, met in Kyoto, Japan to discuss the threat of global warming and possible solutions. Their meeting ended in an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and different options available to countries to achieve this.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, the target to reduce GHG emissions is unique to each country. For the European Union, the target is 8% below 1990 levels; in Japan it is 7% below 1990 levels; and for Canada it is 6%. Due to a steady increase of emissions since 1990, Canada is actually required to reduce emissions by up to 30% from current levels.

The Kyoto Protocol will come into force only when it has been ratified by 55 countries that produce 55% of the developed world's 1990 carbon dioxide emissions. The agreement has been ratified by 102 countries, recently including Canada in December 2002, the European Union, Japan, China, and New Zealand: totaling 43.9% of emissions.

The United States revoked its commitment, claiming that the amount and methods used to reduce emissions in the Kyoto Protocol would damage their economy too drastically. It has come up with its own action plan to reduce GHG emissions. It accounts for 24% of GHG emissions in the developed world, and its withdrawal from Kyoto makes it more difficult to reach the 55% target of GHG emissions.

Developing countries are exempt from the Kyoto Protocol because their per capita emissions are much lower than those of developed countries and have not contributed significantly to today's levels of pollution.

All the countries involved have been meeting since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol to define the operational rules--the international framework from which the countries will take steps to meet their targets.

Since Canada has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, once it is ratified by 55% of emissions, Canada and the other signed countries will be legally required to reduce their emissions by their specified level below 1990 by 2012. If countries emit more gases than allowed by their targets, they will be required to make the cuts and 30% more in the second commitment period. …

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