Canada has a long history of leadership in international processes to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases (GHGs). This section provides a brief historical overview of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as Canada's binding commitments as signatory to the Protocol.
The UNFCCC serves as the focal point through which national governments are cooperatively addressing climate change. The ultimate objective of the Convention is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level low enough to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. A total of 194 countries have ratified the Convention, which entered into force in 1994.
The Convention lays out a number of requirements for all Parties, including the publishing of national inventories of anthropogenic emissions, promotion and cooperation of the development, deployment and transfer of technologies, and cooperation on climate change adaptation. The UNFCCC also identifies actions that must be undertaken by developed countries, such as development of national policies and corresponding measures to mitigate climate change, provision of information outlining the progress toward their emission reduction goals, as well as provision of new and additional financial resources to assist developing countries in meeting their commitments.
The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, which entered into force in 2005, commits developed countries listed in Annex B of the Protocol to individual targets to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, 38 industrialized countries, including Canada, individually undertook a legally-binding commitment to reduce their respective emissions of a basket of six GHGs (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) during 2008-2012, with the goal of cutting their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% from the 1990 level. Canada's target is an average of 6% below 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period.
Canada has met, and will continue to meet, a series of requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. These include: submitting periodic "national communications" that include additional information to the information submitted to the UNFCCC; submission of various reports (including the "Initial Report under the Kyoto Protocol" and "Report on Demonstrable Progress under the Kyoto Protocol"); and payment of various fees including those in support of the International Transaction Log that manages transactions between National Registries of greenhouse gases.
Under the UNFCCC, Canada has also associated itself with the Copenhagen Accord. In accordance with this commitment, Canada has submitted an economy-wide emissions target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Canada will also provide funding to help developing economies reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change, as part of a collective developed country commitment under the Copenhagen Accord to provide up to US $30 billion for the 2010-2012 period.
Since its inception, 118 countries have officially associated themselves with the Copenhagen Accord and, like Canada, major developed countries support the Accord as the basis for advancing the negotiations towards a new legally-binding regime for the post-2012 period. Working with the United States and other like-minded countries to build support for the Accord and to advance its full implementation as a package of commitments will be the focus of Canada's international engagement on climate change in 2010.
Although the UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, it is only in recent years that programs and policies have been put in place to begin to reduce Canada's emissions, and their benefits will not be fully felt during the Kyoto period. That is why Canadian action on climate change is focused on the future, specifically on meeting the goal of a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, as articulated by our commitments under the Copenhagen Accord.
The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol began January 1, 2008, and ends December 31, 2012. Kyoto Protocol Annex B Parties are required to submit their annual greenhouse gas emissions data in the form of a national inventory report, with the final report for 2012 due on April 15, 2014. The degree to which a signatory Party has met its emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol will be assessed after its final report has been filed in 2014.
An Expert Review Team will examine and record each country's total GHG emissions and carbon sink removals for the commitment period (2008-2012). Once the Expert Review process has been completed for all Parties, a 100-day "additional period for fulfillment of commitments" will begin. This period is intended to provide Parties with the opportunity to undertake and finalize the transactions necessary to achieve compliance with Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol. The specific date when the 100-day period begins will be determined by the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol prior to 2014.