For Immediate Release
Jan 13, 2010

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First global warming lawsuit launched against Canada


Friends of the Earth Canada has launched a landmark lawsuit today against the Government of Canada for abandoning its international commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Filed in Federal Court in Ottawa by Canada’s largest environmental law organization, Sierra Legal, the lawsuit alleges that the federal government is violating Canadian law by failing to meet its binding international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Because climate change is the most urgent crisis ever facing the planet, Friends of the Earth is resorting to the courts to require the federal government to respect its Kyoto promises,” says Friends of the Earth Canada Chief Executive Officer Beatrice Olivastri. “While the government talks about ‘Turning the Corner,’ in reality it has made a serious wrong turn that will affect the lives of generations to come.”

The lawsuit is an application for judicial review and alleges that the government’s failure to effectively regulate greenhouse gases is likely to violate the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. This violation of international law contravenes section 166 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which states that Canada must abide by its international agreements in preventing pollution.

Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002, legally requiring a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels, to a level of 563 Megatonnes of greenhouse gases, during the period 2008 to 2012.

On April 26, 2007, the federal government announced its ‘Turning the Corner’ climate change strategy which set greenhouse gas reduction targets from industry and other sources to 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. This would leave Canada approximately 39% above Kyoto target levels in 2012 and would not achieve the Kyoto reduction target of 563 Megatonnes until 2025.

“Canadians expect the Government of Canada to live up to its domestic and international commitments to combat global warming, and our environmental laws require it to do so,” says Sierra Legal lawyer Robert Wright. “Our government shouldn’t have to be asked to put on a credible and lawful climate change cap.”

“The federal government has a legal duty to Canadians and the world to make ‘demonstrable progress’ in reducing greenhouse gases under the UN agreements, and to work with all Canadians to adapt to impacts of climate change,” says Christine Elwell, Friends of the Earth Canada Senior Campaigner. “Instead, we see important programs dismantled, terminated and slashed – all part of the pattern of Kyoto denial by the federal government.”

“The remedy we seek is clear,” continues Olivastri, “Canada must comply with our environmental laws and live up to our domestic and international commitments to combat global warming.