Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and all members.
My name is Andre Turmel. I'm a partner at the law firm of Fasken Martineau in Montreal. I'm going to address you in French in the following presentation.
Bill C-377 addresses Canada's non-compliance in implementing international treaty obligations, specifically in regard to climate change. The CBA Section is certainly concerned about the serious consequences of climate change, and about Canada's failure to implement the Kyoto Protocol as a breach of Canada's international obligations. However, we believe that Bill C-377 should not be passed in its current form. Rather than the proposed legislated targets, the CBA Section urges the government to take immediate steps to meet Canada's international environmental legal obligations to address climate change.
International treaties are the primary tool used by the international community to promote collective action on global environmental problems. Canada is a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which provides in article 26 that, “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.” International customary legal norms from as long ago as 1938 recognize a duty among nations to prevent transboundary pollution and environmental harm.
More recently, there was the Teck Cominco case which was decided by a U.S. court of appeal. It ruled that the United States had administrative responsibilities with respect to a Canadian company that was emitting on American soil.
At this time, Canada is entering into an increasing number of international agreements addressing environmental issues. The CBA has urged federal, provincial and territorial governments to cooperate to implement these international agreements in a timely and complete manner, according to their respective areas of jurisdiction. Implementation of international conventions and obligations under international law is a matter of support for the rule of law.
I would now like to make a few comments about Bill C-377. This bill is intended to rectify Canada's non-compliance with the Protocol. It would introduce ambitious, and on the basis of current experience, likely unattainable, deferred targets. If legislated targets are to be adopted, they should be linked to, and coherent with current targets in international law. The existence of two, unrelated and incommensurate standards would likely create confusion as to the role of international law in domestic environmental law, and would downplay the importance of Canada's legal obligations under the protocol and other international treaties.
I would now like to list some of the legal consequences should Canada fail to comply with the Kyoto Protocol.
The protocol's Marrakesh Accords address non-compliance with article 3.1. The accord provides, in particular, that the enforcement branch of the compliance committee—that is how it is called—which is responsible for compliance, must ensure that Canada fulfils its obligations.
It must declare Canada to be non-compliant if it deducts from Canada's assigned amount for the second commitment period a number of tonnes equal to 1.3 times the amount in tonnes of excess emissions. It will require Canada to develop a compliance action plan including information provided in the letter that we sent to you. Finally, it can suspend Canada's eligibility to make emissions trading transfers under article 17 of the protocol.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol dictating Canada's international environmental obligations and subsequent negotiated instruments within the framework of the framework convention are likely to remain the primary international legal structures to address climate change, including climate change impacts in Canada, after 2012.
While recourse by a country against Canada before the International Court of Justice is unlikely, domestic litigation against the federal government can be expected. Already, the Friends of the Earth have launched two cases against the Government of Canada with the Federal Court, one under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the other under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act adopted in 2007.
To conclude, Bill C-377 deals with a subject of profound concern to Canadians and to the international community. However, it would require an 80% target by 2050, a significantly higher target than is currently adopted by most countries, which generally require around 50 or 60% reduction targets by 2050. While high standards are desirable, if attainable, they should be linked to and coherent with target set out in existing international law. The targets in Bill C-377 are not.
We urge the federal government to take immediate steps to honour Canada's international agreements to address climate change before considering the legislated targets proposed in Bill C-377.