Up until today, Canada had committed to, and I quote “X %” of emission reductions by the year 2020.  In one sarcasm-induced word: Awesome.

Mr. Michael Martin, Canada’s lead negotiator, joked at our last meeting that, “The X stands for 79.2% reductions.” Part of me wishes he hadn’t been joking. The reality is that Canada is suggesting that we commit to -2.7% below 1990 levels by 2020. To put this in perspective, that is less than half the size of our original Kyoto Protocol commitment, with triple the length of time frame.

I am very keen to read the text of the submission that Canada made to the UN Secretariat that explains why this target is a good idea. I certainly can’t think of a reason on my own, though I do trust that the government works in the best interest of the people, so this submission must have something solid in it to back this up. It must, right?

Here’s why the target is so low: The issue for Canada is not a debate about the science – We know that we need global reductions of 25 to 40% of emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. What is a debate for Canada is burden sharing – how much is really Canada’s fair share? Perhaps just as important, how are other industrialized countries responding in comparison to Canada? I’ll tell you.

Group industrialized country reductions for the year 2020:

Country          Suggested reduction below 1990 levels

Australia                                -5 to -15%; or -25%

Canada                                           -3%

European Union                         -20 to -30%

Iceland                                              -15%

Norway                                             -30%

Switzerland                                   -20 to -30%

Ukraine                                            -20%

Interesting, indeed.

The proposals on the floor, for a compiled aggregate target for the whole group of industrialized countries who are part of the Kyoto Protocol is 30% to 72% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020. So on an international level, there certainly is ambition, vision, and a deep understanding of what we need to do to address climate change. For that, we can be happy.  But to back this up a bit, this is similar to what happened with the Kyoto Protocol in it’s initial stages of being drafted on paper – Countries originally agreed on a group target of about -10%  by 2012. And when each country committed to their ‘fair share’, it added up to only -5.2%. That means that there is certainly a lingering fear that this ambition won’t be reflected in individual country commitments.

What’s holding Canada back? So far, a major concern is – of course – the infamous United States. What the United States commits to in the next stage of emission reductions may drastically affect the commitments of other countries – and it will most certainly affect the goals of Canada. The other concern is rapidly growing industrialized countries: China and India. India’s response? “Capability and responsibility seem to be a criteria for developing countries, yet they don’t seem to be a criteria for developed countries.” Hmm…

Stay tuned for a follow-up article on this, which will hopefully include information from the submission made by the Canadian delegation itself, explaining why it’s fair for Canada to take the smallest target of them all.

In the long-term, Canada is committed to 27 to 37% below 1990 levels by 2050, while the international scientific reduction asks for an overall reduction of  -80%.