CBC Newsworld Host: Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson: Well, there’s a Private Members Bill that got Royal Ascent 63 days ago. Royal Ascent means it became law. It requires the government to present to Parliament a plan to meet Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and global warming and to do it within 60 days and that deadline was up yesterday and we haven’t heard anything from the government on Kyoto, so what’s up? We are getting an opinion from our guest from Ottawa. Aaron, could you walk us through what action the bill requires the government to take.

Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence: Well, the Bill itself is not a Kyoto plan, but it requires the government to draft a Kyoto plan yesterday — by yesterday and then publish it tomorrow. So it’s not itself a Kyoto plan but it requires the government to come up with one that will meet our Kyoto obligations.

Nancy Wilson: So that deadline has come and gone. Is there any…sanction or does the bill carry any kind of ramifications if this requirement is not met? Clearly it hasn’t.

Aaron Freeman: Well, it’s not a bill, it’s actually a law that’s been passed and it’s received Royal Ascent and so that’s a legally binding obligation on the Government of Canada. So if they don’t adhere to this obligation they will be vulnerable to a legal challenge and it will be very difficult to think of what the government is going to do to get out of that.

Nancy Wilson: So you are anticipating already that there will be a legal challenge, right?

Aaron Freeman: Well, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one. It seems like a fairly straightforward obligation. The government has to come up with something and if it doesn’t I think that the courts will enforce the law.

Nancy Wilson: So when you say that the government has to come up with something, could that be its own response, it doesn’t have to bear any resemblance to the Kyoto Protocol or the targets or timeline contained in the protocol?

Aaron Freeman: Well, I’m not a practicing lawyer, I teach law, but I would say that the law requires the government to come up with a plan that will meet our Kyoto obligations. So there would definitely have to be some kind of substantive analysis of whether the plan that the government moves forward has what it takes to meet our Kyoto obligations, but probably the government couldn’t simply move forward with their current Kyoto plan because the government has already admitted that that plan will not meet our Kyoto obligations and they have come out and said that quite brazenly.

Nancy Wilson: John Baird, the Environment Minister, said that as the bill made its way through the senate, he said that this is essentially meaningless, that it doesn’t oblige or compel a government to do anything. Why would he say that? Is there any kind of grey area in this whole legal obligation area that allows him to say that?

Aaron Freeman: Well, I’m not privy to the — I’m not in Minister Baird’s head, so I don’t know what he’s thinking on this. My read is that this is a law that requires the government to come up with a plan, so if they don’t come up with a plan I would see them in breach of this law. Now, I guess it remains to be seen if the government will either come up with a plan or I think that someone is going to challenge them in a court.

Nancy Wilson: Yeah, do you think that it’s still realistic for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitments?

Aaron Freeman: I think that Canada has to make a serious reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions and that means hard targets on heavy industry which is responsible for about half of our emissions. And the Federal plan, unfortunately, unlike most of the provincial plans that are now moving forward, doesn’t do that. It has fake targets that are based on the intensity, rather than the actual emissions that these industries are putting out, it allows those emissions to continue to go out and they haven’t done what it takes to put in place meaningful standards on fuel efficiency in vehicles, getting tough with heavy industry and doing a wide range of both regulatory and incentive measures to make sure that we actually make a really serious and meaningful reduction in our greenhouse gases because until now we’ve been dragging our feet while other industrialized countries have been moving far, far ahead of us.

Nancy Wilson: All right, Aaron Freeman, thank you for joining us today.
Aaron Freeman: Thank you.