For the first time in history, a national government is being sued by its citizens for failing to live up to its carbon-cutting commitments under the Kyoto Accord.
Friends of the Earth, represented by Eco Justice Canada, took to a Toronto courtroom on Wednesday to argue that the Canadian government is in breach of the “Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act ” – a Private Members bill (which Opposition parties passed in Parliament last year) demanding that the Canada fulfill its Kyoto commitments.
Illustrating just how determined this government is to ignore its obligations, federal lawyers argued with a straight face that the court should ignore the “will of Parliament” because this is an “unusual ” law that the government did not expect the court to enforce.
Environmental lawyers were astounded by this line of argument. “The case is about defending the fundamental principle that the government must be accountable and comply with the law,” said Eco Justice lawyer Hugh Wilkins. “The government cannot pick and choose which laws to obey. The law is the law.”
“Put simply, Canada has failed to comply with the law,” said eminent Canadian lawyer Chris Paliare. “We are asking the court to declare that the government is bound by the law and must be held accountable to the will of Parliament.”
The battle lines on this issue are clear. Canada’s ruling Conservative Party has consistently opposed binding targets under the Kyoto plan. They seemingly colluded with the Bush administration in sabotaging international climate negotiations. Out of 38 industrialized countries to sign the protocol, Canada is the only one that has stated that they will ignore binding emission reductions.
Not to be in any way ambiguous, Conservartive Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called Kyoto “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”
If this court case succeeds, the Canadian government will be forced to report on what progress (if any) they have made towards honoring commitments made to reduce carbon emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act sets out mandatory legal obligations and deadlines that the government is required to meet, including the publication of a climate change plan and the enactment of regulations to ensure that Canada takes effective and timely action to meet its international treaty obligations.