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In 2004, Canada ranked 12th out of 24 OECD countries in both carbon dioxide emissions per capita and emissions per unit of GDP (Conference Board of Canada 2004). Given its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada is stepping up efforts to curb greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Box 2: Canada led world growth in forest certification

Worldwide, certified forest areas grew by 31 per cent in 2003 to reach 173 million ha. The increase was mainly due to a doubling of certified lands in Canada, where they totalled 56 million ha (Forest Certification Watch 2004).

North America produced a new wave of policy developments in 2004 aimed at forest certification and responsible procurement.

In the US there were some encouraging major corporate commitments to purchase from sustainably managed sources. Time Inc. announced a paper purchasing policy by which it expects 80 per cent of its fibre purchases to come from certified lands. Office stationery and equipment supplier, Office Depot, announced a paper procurement policy giving preference to third-party certified wood products. Copying and stationery company, Kinko's, issued requirements for forest product suppliers and targets for recycled content (Forest Certification Watch 2004).

In April 2004, the Canadian government launched a new initiative to increase public participation in combating climate change. The 'One-Tonne Challenge' calls on individual Canadians to cut their annual greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne of CO2 - 20 per cent of the current average. It makes a range of straightforward suggestions that can help Canadians use less energy, conserve water and resources, and reduce waste. Examples include using public transport more often, draught-proofing homes, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and composting. Citizens who sign up to the challenge on the Internet can use an interactive calculator to find out what emissions they produce now, and to plan new actions to reach the one-tonne goal (Government of Canada 2004).

A number of environmental NGOs in North America also have Internet campaigns challenging people to take simple steps with measurable, positive impacts. The Center for a New American Dream suggests that for every participant who signs up and acts on their campaign, there is a reduction of about 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year (Center for a New American Dream 2004).

Box 3: Wolves improve ecological balance in Yellowstone

Grey wolf (Canis lupus).
Source: Gary Kramer courtesy Fish and Wildlife Service

The reintroduction of grey wolves (Canis lupus) to Yellowstone National Park is stimulating intensive scientific research and heated public debate.

Wolves were once the region's top predator, but in the 1920s they were eliminated because of the danger they allegedly posed to livestock and humans. The results were dramatic: the elk population exploded, preventing regeneration of some tree species, with a cascade effect on the abundance of other animal species such as beaver, trout, and grizzly bear.

To restore the situation, 41 grey wolves from Canada and the state of Montana were moved to the park in 1995-96. Today, there are 306 grey wolves in the Yellowstone region (Smith 2004), and their presence has sparked a dramatic regeneration throughout the ecosystem. For the most part, the wolves are preying on elk and deer. Elk numbers have declined, reducing the grazing pressure on tree seedlings. As a result, there are more trees for beavers, whose dams slow water flows and create pools. This has sparked trout regeneration, helped along by cooler waters due to shade from newly grown trees. Since elk carcasses become food for many scavengers, the wolves' presence has also led to an increase in the numbers of grizzly bears, magpies, ravens, and eagles (Robbins 2004).

Most conservationists and scientists see this as a unique opportunity to study and document the dramatic effects that reintroduction of a key predator species can have upon an entire ecosystem. But the scheme has faced opposition. Local ranchers are concerned about wolf predation of livestock, while the hunting industry fears a significant decrease in the number of game (Robbins 2004). Interest conflicts have led to protracted legal battles, more than a hundred public hearings, and years of costly scientific studies. On the other hand, early evidence strongly suggests that this is a success story in ecological restoration and scientists and conservationists are keen to continue monitoring the experiment.

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