Government faces lawsuit over Kyoto targets

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - An environmental group is taking the Conservative government to court for not meeting its obligations under a recently passed climate-change law.

Friends of the Earth filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court, with the help of Toronto lawyer Chris Paliare and Ecojustice.

The group charges that Environment Minister John Baird is ignoring the rule of law by failing to comply with legislation that requires the government meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol and submit a plan illustrating how it would do so. The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act was passed with the support of the opposition in June.

Garry Keller, Baird’s director of communications, said in a statement that the department would have no comment on cases before the courts.

Beatrice Olivastri of Friends of the Earth says that just as a deadbeat dad would be forced to provide money to his children, so too should a judge order the federal government live up to its legal obligations.

"Some of the excuses we've heard around Kyoto are reminiscent of what you hear from deadbeat dads: I can't afford the payments, I'd have to give up too much to afford the payments," Olivastri said.

“It's running away from the responsibility that our government bears."

Baird did submit an ostensible Kyoto blueprint in August – as required by the legislation – but it did not commit to meeting the Kyoto target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The Conservatives have consistently maintained that years of inaction on the part of their Liberal predecessors makes it impossible to meet the targets without serious consequences for the economy.

The Conservatives underline that they have their own plan to tackle global warming, one which will put Canada more than 30 per cent over its Kyoto targets but will ultimately put the country on track for deeper reductions.

Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, the original sponsor of the bill that became the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, said the legislation was spurred when the Conservatives made it clear they would not respect the international treaty.

"First you start with not respecting the international, and then they don't respect the national law. They have to face the consequences."

Meanwhile, the NDP has said they are no longer fixated on the issue of the Kyoto targets, but instead would like the government to commit to a more stringent environmental plan.

A Clean Air Act that was before Parliament, and heavily amended by the opposition, died on the order paper when the last session of Parliament ended earlier this week. NDP Leader Jack Layton has said he would like to see it revived by the government, but Tory House Leader Peter Van Loan said that's not on.

Friends of the Earth had filed another application against the government in Federal Court earlier in the year, alleging the government was violating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by not living up to Kyoto. That case has been abandoned in favour of the new one based on the more specific Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.


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