Legal opinion on climate change showing Canadian Government out of compliance with international law

Doors open for a Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) challenge says Friends of the Earth-Canada

(Ottawa, Canada, Oct. 31, 2006) Today, Friends of the Earth-Canada (FOE-C) released a legal opinion that finds Canada in breach of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) in three respects, in breach of the Kyoto Protocol in two respects and likely to be in breach of the Kyoto Protocol in one further respect.

The 40 page legal opinion was provided by international law specialist Dr. Roda Verheyen (LL.M London) of the Hamburg Germany based law firm of Gunther-Heidel-Wollenteit-Hack. She concludes that Canadian pollution violates international agreements.

This key finding positions Friends of the Earth-Canada to invoke the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) 1999 provision of a Ministerial duty to act to control international air pollution, with the intent of forcing the Harper government to regulate greenhouse gases.

There are three tests to trigger a duty to act by the Minister of Environment specified in CEPA s. 166:

1. Is Canada releasing GHGs?
2. Are they contributing to air pollution?
3. Does this pollution violate an international agreement?

With the legal opinion each of the three tests can be answered with a yes, and the duty to act provision can be exercised.

"With respect to greenhouse gas emissions, we have long felt Canada has demonstrated illegal behaviour on the world stage," stated Beatrice Olivastri, Friends of the Earth-Canada CEO. She went on to say, "Receiving the documentation from lawyer Dr. Roda Verheyen is a giant step towards getting our government to do the right thing and regulate greenhouse gas emission reductions."

Christine Elwell, Friends of the Earth-Canada Senior Campaigner, described a letter sent to Minister Ambrose as one which, "Established that the Government not only has the authority under CEPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but is also obliged to act." Elwell went on to say, "We have provided Minister Ambrose with a 30 day window to tell Canadians how the Government will honour this duty to Canadians and the world, with the understanding that they are not free to avoid taking action."

The Friends of the Earth-Canada letter and the Verheyen legal opinion will be submitted to the Kyoto Protocol Compliance Committee (KPCC) where it will add weight to the complaint already lodged by South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 countries and China. In May 2006, South Africa asked the KPCC to investigate the failure of 15 countries, including Canada, to report on their demonstrable progress to reduce GHG emissions. As of Oct 30th, this number is down to 6, still including Canada. If Canada is found to be out of compliance, its emissions reduction targets will include an additional 30% reduction penalty and its ability to engage in KP emissions trading will be suspended. A report by Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, issued last month, found that Canada is 34.6% off target for reducing greenhouse gases.

Ms Olivastri noted that, "The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Nairobi convenes within the 30 day period we set out, and Friends of the Earth-Canada will view the actions by Canadian government representatives in Nairobi as a strong indicator of the Government's intent to comply with its duty to act."

"We support Friends of the Earth-Canada's actions, and trust the citing of the domestic duty to act, the legal opinion and compliance complaint will lead Canada to reconsider its illegal behaviour. Until then, Canada's reputation as an honest broker and environmental leader is tarnished," says Peter Roderick, Co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme, an international and collaborative initiative hosted by Friends of the Earth International.


For more information, contact:

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO Friends of the Earth-Canada, 613-241-0085 x 26 or Cell 613-724-8690

Christine Elwell, FOE Senior Campaigner, 416-604-7333

Peter Roderick, Co-Director of the Climate Justice Programme, London, +44 20 7388 3141

Copies of the Dr. Roda Verheyen legal opinion, the FOE letter to both Minister Ambrose and the Kyoto Protocol Compliance Committee can be found on the FOE website,

An electronic photo of Ms Olivastri is also available.

Friends of the Earth-Canada is a voice for the environment, nationally and internationally, working with others to inspire the renewal of our communities and the earth, through research, education and advocacy.

Friends of the Earth-International (FoEI) is the world's largest grassroots environmental federation with 71 national member groups in 70 countries and around 1.5 million individual members and supporters

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