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Bill C-311: The Climate Change Accountability Act



On May 5, 2010, Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act (the "Act") was passed by the House of Commons. The Act will require that the federal government set regulations to attain a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The Act also sets a more aggressive long term target to bring greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Act was first introduced by Jack Layton in October 2006 as Bill C-377. However, it was not until February of 2009, when the Climate Change Accountability Act was reintroduced as a Private Member's Bill, named Bill C-311, that momentum to pass the new legislation began to build.

The overall purpose of the Act as stated in the preamble of Bill C-311 is to

"ensure that Canada reduces greenhouse gas emissions to an extent similar to that required by all industrialized countries in order to prevent dangerous climate change, in accordance with the scientific evidence on the impacts of increased levels of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases"

The Act also sets out obligations to ensure that the aggressive targets are met. The Act provides that the Minister of the Environment, within six months of the Act receiving Royal Assent, is to prepare an interim Canadian greenhouse gas emissions target plan for 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045. The target plan set out by the Minister is to establish greenhouse gas emission targets for those years. The Minister's plan is also required to specify the scientific, economic and technological evidence and analysis used to establish each target and to show that each target is consistent with a responsible contribution by Canada to the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The Minister is also to review the target plan at least once every five years beginning in 2015.

The Act provides that regulations may be made that:

  1. limit the amount of greenhouse gases that may be released into the environment;
  2. limit the amount of greenhouse gases that may be released in each province;
  3. establish performance standards designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions;
  4. pertain to the use or production of any equipment, technology, fuel, vehicle or process in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions;
  5. permit or approve of the release of any greenhouse gas;
  6. provide or pertain to monitoring, inspections, investigations, reporting, enforcement, penalties or other matters to promote compliance with the regulations made under the Act;
  7. designate a contravention of a provision or class of provisions of the regulations as an offence punishable by indictment or by summary conviction and prescribe a fine and/or imprisonment for the offence; and,
  8. relate to any other matter that is necessary to carry out the purpose of the Act.

To assist in carrying out the mandate of the Act, the Minister is required to prepare a statement on an annual basis setting out the measures taken by the Government to ensure that its commitment to greenhouse gas emission reduction are being made. The statement is also to set out the greenhouse gas emission reductions that are reasonably expected to result from the measures taken in each of the next ten years and the level of greenhouse gas emissions in each of the next ten years to be used as a baseline to quantify the future reductions expected.

After the release of the Minister's target plan, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is to undertake research, gather information and analysis on the target plan in the context of sustainable development and advise the Minister.

Any contravention under the Act is punishable by indictment or summary conviction and may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment as to be set out in applicable regulations. The Act includes a provision to charge an officer, director or agent of a corporation that is directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced or participated in the contravention.



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