November 15, 2018

Is Canada Living Up to Its Global Climate Commitments?

Emily K. Green and Phelps Turner

For more than a quarter century, Canada has engaged in international climate change negotiations and has made repeated commitments to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Beginning in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when the country promised to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2000, and most recently in Paris in 2015, when it agreed to cut its emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, Canada regularly has cast itself as a world leader on climate action, with a particular fervor under the current leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Because of its engagement and pronouncements, Canada often is viewed as an environmental trailblazer. But has the nation earned this reputation? Making climate commitments and actually achieving climate objectives are two separate efforts, and Canada hasn’t lived up to its obligations in the past. In 2011, for instance, it was the first country to withdraw from the 2005 Kyoto Protocol, under which it had agreed to cut emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

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