Copenhagen climate conference has begun
From December 7 to 18, 2009, delegates from about 200 countries are meeting in Copenhagen for the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As the conference approached, many countries signalled that the core elements of an international climate change treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol would be left on the table at least until 2010, when the UNFCCC parties reconvene in Mexico City. In particular, President Obama and other world leaders agreed in mid-November to make the mission of Copenhagen only to enter into a non-binding political agreement that would call for reductions in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the provision of aid to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
Key negotiating positions include the following:
- President Obama has announced that the United States will offer
to reduce its emissions by about 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.
This target is consistent with the medium-term target set out in
the Waxman-Markey climate change bill (see page 2 of Torys' July Climate Change Bulletin) that
passed the U.S. House in June. It is conditional, however, on
Congress first passing domestic legislation consistent with this
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated that Canada's
goal for reducing GHG emissions is "virtually identical"
to the goal set out by President Obama, implicitly referring to the
Canadian government's official plan to reduce Canada's GHG
emissions by 20% below 2006 levels by 2020.
- The European Union has maintained its promise to cut aggregate
emissions of its member states by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, or
by 30% if other developed countries commit to significant
reductions as well.
- China and India have offered to set voluntary emissions
intensity targets, which would commit them to reduce their carbon
dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by
40%–45% and 20%–25%, respectively, below 2005
levels by 2020. However, on December 3, 2009, these two countries,
along with Brazil and South Africa, rejected a Danish proposal to
halve global GHG emissions by 2050, since much of this reduction
would necessarily be borne by developing countries.
A commitment by developed countries to contribute to a "quick start" fund for climate change actions in the developing world is a likely outcome of the Copenhagen conference. However, the mechanism for transferring any funding to developing countries will likely be debated into 2010.
For further information, please see the Conference website.
Environment minister continues to espouse Canada-U.S. cooperation
On November 13, 2009, Environment Minister Jim Prentice reiterated the federal government's plans to work toward harmonized Canada-U.S. action on climate change. He stressed the government's position that if "the U.S. does not make a substantial effort going forward, there is nothing Canada can do." In addition, according to Prentice, if the United States begins to regulate GHG emissions and Canada does not adopt comparable regulations, it may face border-tax adjustments on carbon-intensive Canadian exports to the United States. The Waxman-Markey bill that passed the U.S. House contemplated such "carbon tariffs" by 2020 for certain imported products from countries that did not have comparable GHG emissions regulations. Minister Prentice also highlighted the federal government's ongoing work on a cap-and-trade system for industrial GHG emitters, which he stated would be comparable to a future U.S. system while still reflecting unique Canadian circumstances.
For further information, please see Minister Prentice's speech.
Ministry of the Environment finalizes GHG reporting requirements
On December 1, 2009, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) issued its final Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting regulation. This regulation imposes mandatory emissions reporting for all regulated sources that are emitting 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent or more per year. Reporting for 2010 will occur on or before June 1, 2011 and continue annually thereafter. The MOE will accept a number of different quantification methods for the reporting of 2010 emissions, but standardized quantification methods will be imposed from 2012. In addition, third-party verification of emissions will be required for the 2011 reporting year and continue annually thereafter. Under the regulations, firms that emit between 10,000 and 25,000 tonnes per year will not be required to report emissions. However, the MOE plans to develop a program to encourage voluntary reporting for these firms.
For further information, please see Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulation and Guideline.
Ontario passes amendments further enabling cap-and-trade system
On December 3, 2009, the Ontario legislature passed the Environmental Protection Amendment Act (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading). The amendments clarify the province's existing authority to issue market-based regulations to achieve environmental standards, such as the regulations that would be necessary to establish a future cap-and-trade system. In addition, the amendments state that the province may issue market-based instruments, such as emissions allowances, for free or by auction, sale or other means. According to the amendments, any amounts paid for these instruments must be paid into a provincial account designated for reimbursing the government for costs incurred in administering GHG regulations and for supporting GHG reduction initiatives. The province continues to work with other Canadian and U.S. partners of the Western Climate Initiative to establish a regional cap-and-trade system by 2012.
For further information, please see Ontario's press release.
Ontario issues second annual climate change progress report
On December 2, 2009, Ontario released its 2008–2009 Annual Report on the province's Climate Change Action Plan. The report highlights the province's progress toward meeting its goals of reducing Ontario's GHG emissions, relative to 1990 levels, by 6% by 2014, 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The report also highlights Ontario's introduction of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, which has established a feed-in tariff for renewable source electricity generators; the province's plan to invest $11.5 billion over several years in transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area; and its ongoing development of new land-use management plans for the Lake Simcoe area and the province's Far North region.
For further information, please see Ontario's press release.
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