Canada this week set a dangerous precedent that could unravel global progress towards mitigating climate change, when it said that it had decided to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol.
Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said, “The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world's two largest emitters, the United States and China, and therefore cannot work.” He added that the Protocol originally covered countries generating less than 30 per cent of global emissions and now it covered less than only 13 per cent and that number was only shrinking.
The Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997, is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aimed at fighting global warming by stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
Not surprisingly, China lashed out at Canada's plan to pull out of the agreement, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin reportedly describing the decision as being “regrettable,” and “against the efforts of the international community.”
Yet Mr. Kent said on Monday it was clear that the Protocol was not the path forward for a global solution to climate change, and if anything it was an impediment. “The Kyoto Protocol does not represent the path forward for Canada,” he noted, adding, “The Durban platform is a way forward to build on our work at Copenhagen and at Cancun.”
Canada's withdrawal comes at a time when it has increasingly gained the reputation of a climate “renegade” that has encouraged the rampant use of polluting energy platforms. For example, oil sands production, one of the most polluting forms of oil extraction, is at the heart of Canada's discussion with the U.S. regarding the now-infamous Keystone Pipeline.
Clearly, the impact of the global recession is also an unspoken factor in Canada's calculus.
According to Mr. Kent, the cost of meeting Canada's obligations under Kyoto was in the range of $13.6 billion. “That is $1,600 from every Canadian family; that is the Kyoto cost to Canadians. That was the legacy of an incompetent liberal government,” he said.