Economic Instruments and the Kyoto Protocol: Can Parliament Implement Emissions Trading without Provincial Co-operation


  • Philip Barton



The ability of the federal government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol — the international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — is uncontested by provincial governments. However, the recent provincial opposition to this treaty could result in a constitutional challenge to Parliament's domestic implementation of the binding emission targets. This potential challenge is a result of the uncertainty in Parliament's authority to implement the necessary legislation. This article examines the federal authority to implement emissions trading — an economic instrument into which the federal government has invested a considerable amount of research in recent years. As possible reliance for Parliament's jurisdiction over trading, three federal powers are investigated: the peace, order and good government power, the criminal law power and the trade and commerce power. While there are difficulties with reliance on each of these powers, the peace, order and good government power is likely to provide the strongest argument for federal jurisdiction. Given the federal government's lack of clear legislative authority for trading, this article finishes by examining the alternative economic instrument of emissions taxation, concluding that Parliament's power to implement taxes is much more certain.