Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Canada - Durban Agreement and Kyoto

Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Monday that Canada would legally withdraw from the Kyoto Accord.  The announcement was made after the Minister attended COP 17 in Durban.  Under the accord a country is required to give a year's notice to withdraw.

The announcement has caused a firestorm, especially by opposition parties, the most vocal being Elizabeth May, the Leader of Canada's green party.  She went as far as accusing the Harper government of breaking the law.

"The Kyoto Implementation Act was passed by the House of Commons in 2007 and has royal assent. It requires Canada to continue reporting and doing its job, fulfilling its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol," she said. "I wonder that the prime minister of this country thinks he can withdraw us from an international treaty which was ratified by the House of Commons with no discussion in the House, and violate a domestic law with no discussion in the House."  Source CBC

Kyoto was originally signed by the Chretien Liberal government and despite good intentions nothing was done by the Chretien and Martin liberals to meet the promised targets.  Stephan Dion ran an election campaign based on green values, which were rejected by Canadians and in 2005 Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives were first elected as a minority government.  Since May 2011 Harper leads a majority government in the House of Commons.

Canada's economy is closely aligned to the United States, with $1.6 Billion of trade crossing the U.S./Canada border daily.  The United States from the Clinton Administration to the present Obama Administration has not ratified Kyoto and as such is not part of the Kyoto Accord.

The United States, China and Russia are the world's largest CO2 emitters, with the United States emitting over one quarter of the worlds total.  China's contribution is 15%, while Russia emits just under 7%.  Canada on the overall scale emits 2.3% of the worlds carbon, a pittance overall.  Despite this, Greenpeace and other environmental groups, including Elizabeth May and the NDP Energy critic Meghan Leslie keep dumping on the Alberta oil sands and insist that Canada is disgusting.

Peter Kent contends, and rightfully so, that the Kyoto Accord does absolutely nothing to reduce global carbon emission without the inclusion of the US, China, Brazil and South Africa.  Both Canada and the United States have their carbon emission target aligned.  The government has committed to reduce target by 17% by from 2005 levels by 2020.  This is the same commitment mad by the United States. When pressed by Parliament on the decision to leave Kyoto, Prime Minister Harper said that the targets were stupid and made no sense for Canada.

"In terms of climate change, we're pursuing policies domestically and nationally and internationally. We're working for the creation of an international protocol that will include all major emitters," Harper said.
"What this government has never favoured is the protocol that only controls a little bit of global emissions, not enough to actually make any difference but enough to transfer Canadian jobs overseas. And we will never agree to that."
Complying with Kyoto would have cost the Federal Government around $16 Billion, according to Environment Minister Peter Kent.  During a time of slow growth and volatility in the global economy spending that kind of money just doesn't make sense.

Despite the outcry, Canada has agreed to be part of a new accord recommended at Durbin.  That accord will include all of the world's emitters, including China.  The new accord is to be completed by 2015 with implementation by 2020.

In a recent  CTV/Nanos poll only 5% of Canadians saw the environment as a top priority, while a majority of Canadians said it was the economy.

Top Issue Question: What is your most important NATIONAL issue of concern? [Unprompted] (n=1,202)
The numbers in parentheses denote the change from October 24th, 2011 (n=1,202).
Jobs/economy 29.3% (+2.7)
Healthcare 22.8% (-4.8)
Education 6.2% (-1.4)
The environment 4.9% (-1.7)
Debt/deficit 4.2% (+1.1)
Unsure 11.8% (+3.3)

The Harper government was faced with a choice, either continue within the framework of Kyoto and be hypocritical, since no government ever met the targets nor intend to or to work toward a new accord that is all inclusive.  Given the economic situation and the close alignment with the U.S. economy, opting out of Kyoto made ultimate sense.

The federal government is entirely correct to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto Protocol.
If the international climate treaty was ever about saving the planet from global warming, that ceased to be its goal long ago. As demonstrated by the final agreement signed over the weekend at the United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, Kyoto is now mostly about punishing rich countries for being rich and forcing them to pay vast sums — up to $1.6-trillion a year — to the UN for redistribution to poorer nations (after, of course, the UN has taken a healthy cut off the top to support its own wasteful bureaucracy, nepotism, cronyism, incompetence and corruption).  National Post

While I respect the passionate engagement of Elizabeth May, it is time to cut back the rhetoric and start operating within the realm of reality.  The Liberals have no room to talk.  They signed the Kyoto Accord but never intended to meet targets.  As for the NDP "Talk is cheap - Whiskey costs money".

Pie Chart of Global Emissions


  1. If you are going to use quotes, verify their veracity. Jobs are exported overseas moreso with the damning privitization which goes unfettered under neoliberalism. Beyond that, the issue is moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels. The Tar sands represent regressional endeavours which not only compound our status as a staples economy, it magnifies our reliance on the US as our only major trading partner. This article also sites the National Post as an authority on what is right for the country to do. Do you realize that the NP is not only one of the biggest pmouthpieces for the neoliberal machine, but it is also mired in oil money?

  2. Andi,

    Thank you for your comments. You are entitled to your opinion, which I disagree with. While we should move away from fossil fuels, it will not happen overnight or in the short term. The problem isn't fossil fuels but the consumption of it by the planet. All you need to do is take a look at rush hour traffic each day. Some of the biggest proponents opposing fossil fuels are the biggest offenders. California is a good example. Lavish houses in Hollywood, but they want to lecture the rest of us.

    Conservation is the answer and the development of some of the green alternative energy. Keep in mind though that windmills and solar take up large amounts of real estate and that the governing elite will still want to maintain control over the rest of us.

    It is interesting if you want to generate your own energy and join the grid, the cost of joining the grid becomes overwhelming.

    I am all for developing alternate sources of energy, but I am also realistic.