UN environment agency welcomes Canada’s ratification of Kyoto Protocol

19 December 2002

Canada’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the five year-old agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, showed “courage and leadership” and recognized the overwhelming scientific and moral arguments for fighting climate change, the head of the United Nations environment agency said today.

“Global warming is the greatest environmental threat this planet faces,” said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the Environment Programme (UNEP). “The scientific evidence, that pollution from sources such as factories, power plants and vehicles is changing the world’s weather systems, is already with us. The moral arguments are equally compelling as it is the poorest of the poor, on continents like Africa, who stand to suffer most from an upsurge in extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.”

Canada’s move means that those developed countries that have so far ratified represent close to 44 per cent of the 1990 emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. In order for the Protocol to enter into force, 55 per cent of the developed world’s 1990 emissions must be covered. Russia, with over 17 per cent of the emissions, is crucial for the Protocol to become international law.

Mr. Toepfer said Canada’s ratification was even more impressive given that country’s high reliance on coal, gas and oil. “The fact that Canada believes it can achieve its reduction targets, despite being a big user and producer of fossil fuels, gives the clear signal to others that fighting global warming is not economic suicide,” he said. “It shows that reducing the risks of climate change are realistic and necessary which, if managed sensibly, can have important economic benefits in terms of the development of new technologies, jobs and financial markets.”