UNFCCC Commitments

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7.2.2.1.b

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), effective as of March 1994, marked the beginning of international cooperation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation of GHGs). 186 governments had signed by 2004.

The Convention’s ultimate objective is to stabilize atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases to prevent dangerous human-made interference with the climate. See 6.2.2.1 for global perspective and principles.
Ontario hosted one of the earliest scientific world conferences on climate change!

Historically Ontario was part of the Canadian scientific community in developing the Montreal Protocol in 1987- an agreement to ban ozone-depleting substances. Not only was this a precedent-setting international effort in itself, but it led to the conference hosted in Toronto in 1988.

Here, several leading scientific experts presented preliminary results of the current understanding of climate change to a world gathering of scientists, politicians, policy advisors, engineers and others, held in Toronto. This meeting was the first of its kind.

The Prime Ministers of Canada and Norway, environment and energy Ministers and other policy makers from many other governments attended.

The conference participants, in the opening sentences of their formal statement, issued this clear warning to the international community:

1988 Toronto World Conference Participants Statement:

“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.”

Source: Proceedings of the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security, WMO report # 710, P292 (1988).

Some at the time regarded this statement as alarmist. They cautioned for the need to undertake better assessments of the science to better identify the risks – given the complexity and uncertainty related to climate change science. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC was established and the first global assessment efforts began.

Canadian scientists played a significant role in the IPCC assessment process. Many are from the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Region of Environment Canada. Canadians represented more than 4% of the scientists involved in the 2001 Third Assessment and Review (TAR) process. Of these, about two-thirds are with government research agencies and the remainder from academia – the universities.

Source : H. Hengeveld et al., (2002) Science and Impacts of Climate Change CD Presentation Graphics MSC Environment Canada/ ESS Natural Resources Canada.

ACTIVITY 1
1. What does TAR stand for? WG 1?
2. What percentage of the total world’s contributing scientists were Canadian?

Research

3. How well does #2 represent Canada by % of the total global population?
4. Is the % Canadian contribution representation by population for this global project?

Since 1988 other international science conferences on climate change have been held in Toronto include one on the Urban Heat Island Effect and the most recent State of the Lakes Ecological Conference – SOLEC – The International Joint Commission biennial meeting in 2004.

Present Ontario Government Policy includes emission reduction plans or mitigation of the effects of climate change with respect to international commitments with the United States e.g. water quality and air quality along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. See Areas of Concern (AOC) map.

The government of Ontario is committed to a Conservation Culture. Adaptations that reduce the risk to damage from climate change are a great part of this approach.

Conservation of energy by of all sectors reduces the required generation and transmission of electrical energy. Smart meters measuring electricity use are being installed to encourage use with lower rates during off-peak hours.

Mitigation strategies to reduce emissions included closing of some nuclear power stations, coal-fired electrical generating stations, conversion to gas-powered stations and encouraging alternative sources of energy production.

Projections for the future are based on what we know now. Not taking action because of uncertainties increases the risk and costs of damage due to the effects of climate change.

The connection and the urgency to do both adaptation and mitigation for climate change is shown in the figure below for strategy in Great Lakes and St. Lawrence.

Source: International Joint Commission (IJC) Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region. May2003 www.ijc.org.

ACTIVITY 2
1. Choose one of these sectors: Government, Buildings, Transportation, Industry, Agriculture, Forestry, Energy Supply, Waste Management.
2. Research and report the status and plans with respect to mitigation or reduction of emissions addressing future needs and effects of climate change.

  • for Ontario
  • for your municipality
  • for you and your family.

Scientific research today must include practitioner/stakeholder and researcher views of what is needed to understand climate change, the impacts, and adaptive responses.

Since mitigation is based on reducing emissions, emphasis has been placed on understanding bio-physical systems.

More attention must also be placed on understanding human and institutional behaviour in the face of a changing climate. Methods must be agreed upon to ensure data are preserved for future reference and use. Sensitivity of the Great Lakes beneficial uses to climate change must be included.

The sooner mitigation or emission reduction policies are developed and put into action the more the cost of make the effort can be reduced.

The Government of Ontario has undertaken a review of plans for growth and development while at the same time encouraging a conservation culture. This acknowledges the issues of sustainable growth and communities facing climate change projections. Reducing the need for generating electricity and burning fossil fuels, providing public transportation initiatives support this policy review.

ACTIVITY 3

Check the Government of Ontario website. www.gov.on.ca for further information. Browse each ministry to check its mandate with respect to environmental and climate change issues.

1. Choose one policy or one ministry and report your findings.

The general public needs to become informed and help the government and agencies set policies and priorities in actions to limit the effects of climate change.

Mitigation strategies to reduce emissions include reviewing coal-fired electrical generating stations status with reference to gas-powered stations, nuclear power stations and encouraging alternative sources of energy production.

The sooner mitigation or emission reduction policies are developed and put into action the more the cost of make the effort can be reduced.

Recommendations from the IJC report in 2004 which need to be supported by government policy for managing the future with respect to climate change are listed below.

ACTIVITY 4
1. Choose a bullet point. Check out your local community’s level of preparedness.Content Updated Sept 2005

ACTIVITY

Activity 1
Activity 2
Activity 3
Activity 4

See Activities in 7.2.2.1 – Check Ontario websites, newspapers and magazines for updated information on new initiatives or reports which show awareness and response to these international recommendations. Research to discover other present and proposed changesEg. Montreal Protocol – Track Ontario’s history of making changes to meet this agreement – eg freon in air conditioners both in vehicles and buildings and refrigerators.

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