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Climate change

Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol (Natural Resources Canada 2003), making the climate change issue a national priority, and launched programmes to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to meet the country’s reduction target. The Kyoto Protocol commits Canada, which is responsible for three per cent of the world greenhouse gas release, to cut its emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.
In the United States, President Bush announced a new climate change strategy, which sets a voluntary ‘greenhouse gas intensity’ target for the nation (US EPA 2003b). Different approaches can be used to reduce emissions. One approach is to set an ‘absolute’ target requiring that emissions be reduced by a specific amount; the government’s strategy, instead, sets a target for GHG intensity: the ratio of GHG emissions to economic output expressed in gross domestic product (GDP). This strategy expands existing programmes and provides extra incentives encouraging companies to voluntarily report and reduce their GHG emissions. It also proposes increased federal funding for climate change science and technology development. A recent report, US Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change, released in November 2003 by the Pew Center, examined US policy experiences – both successes and failures – and drew lessons for climate change policy. The report cautions that technology policies, while important, can not by themselves achieve the GHG reductions necessary to mitigate climate change. ‘Technology policies are only one piece of the solution, and will only work if coupled with other non-technology policies, such as a GHG cap-and-trade program.’ (Pew Center 2003).
A new strategic plan for the US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) was announced in response to the President’s directive that climate change research activities be accelerated to provide the best possible scientific information to support public discussion and decision-making on climate-related issues (US CCSP 2003). The plan describes a strategy for developing knowledge of variability and change in climate and related environmental and human systems, and for encouraging the application of this knowledge.

Both countries also separately announced initiatives to develop and test hydrogen fuel-cell technologies and the systems needed to put them into widespread use. For example, the US government announced a hydrogen fuel initiative to reverse America’s growing dependence on foreign oil (White House 2003a). The initiative is complemented by the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, a partnership of 15 countries and the European Union to promote the development and application of hydrogen technology (US Department of Energy 2003).
In relation to air pollution, both countries announced in June a new Border Air Quality Strategy that will involve joint pilot projects to improve air quality (Environment Canada 2003b). One of the projects, the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy, will identify measures to reduce emissions to the atmosphere and address transboundary pollution in northwestern Washington State and southwestern British Columbia (US EPA 2003b). Both governments also agreed to build on the transboundary air quality improvements of the last decades by beginning to develop new cooperative projects. Driven by domestic and international challenges, both countries are taking a lead in the development of new technologies to find solutions to environmental problems.


A partnership of 15 countries and the European Union are working together to promote the development and application of hydrogen fuel cell technologies and the systems needed to put them into widespread use

Source: Still Pictures

In Canada, a prominent element of the government’s strategy was to impose, through its On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations, strict new emissions standards for on-road vehicles and engines (Environment Canada 2003c). The regulations, which will be effective for the 2004 model year, will align Canadian emission standards for on-road vehicles and engines with those of the US EPA. The US measures are recognized as the most stringent national standards in the world.


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