Canada’s Idea of a Christmas Present: Backing Out of the Kyoto Protocol

~Graham Reeder

Recent information from CTV (a Canadian news agency) is showing that Canada is planning to formally back out of the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, along with Japan and Russia have been saying for a year that they do not want to make any new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol (KP) after this year, but backing out altogether places Canada in the same position as the US. This is part of a greater strategy from countries in the developed world to undermine the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international document that ensures greenhouse gas reductions on behalf of both developed and developing countries.

The argument that these developed countries are touting is that the Kyoto commitments are only applicable for developed countries that are party to the KP, meaning that they do not include major emitters like China, India, and the US, and that a new treaty is needed that includes both developed and developing countries symmetrically. The truth is that emissions haven’t happened symmetrically: the developed countries that are bound by the Kyoto Protocol and the US are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gasses currently in the atmosphere as well as all of the current climate change being experienced. To expect countries like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa to pay for the mistakes of rich countries is a direct contradiction of the principles laid out in the UNFCCC and dooms us to a bottom up approach that effectively locks us into a 2-5 degrees C warmer world.

This latest development is a new low even for Canada. Canadian delegates have routinely blocked progress and lowered ambitions on all fronts at the UNFCCC, beating the US for Fossil of the Year Awards by Climate Action International for four years running, but pulling out of a legally binding protocol at such a crucial point is perhaps the biggest insult to the UN and to the rest of the world any Canadian government has committed. Canada regularly rides on its reputation of being an environmental leader, an international peacekeeper, and an all-round reasonably minded country, a reputation built for the most part by the Liberal Party of Canada in the late 20th century. The Conservatives have taken power in the last 10 years and have steadily undone almost everything that earned Canada that reputation over the past century; this could be the final blow. It is high time for Stephen Harper’s conservatives to step aside at the international level, they have shown that they are unwilling and unable to negotiate in good faith and should run back home before they embarrass Canadian citizens any further.

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