December 14, 2011

Why Canada shuns its green commitment?

By Li Hongmei
Canada’s widely criticized quit from Kyoto Protocol might act as a timely reminder that a toothless form of words involving just diplomatic censure can hardly prevent countries from walking away from their commitments. This really sends some dismay to negotiators at the Durban climate conference burned the midnight oil over the weekend to agree on an accord that should lead to a legally binding deal to cut emissions after 2020.
Canada's environment minister, Peter Kent, formally announced Monday that Canada will withdraw from Kyoto Protocol, saying the accord "does not represent a way forward for Canada", and his country would face crippling fines for failing to meet its targets, making Canada a public stunt by pulling out of the global treaty. The protocol, initially adopted in KyotoJapan, in 1997, is aimed at fighting global warming.
Several countries have since lashed out at Canada for its evading commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the international accord.
Countries including India expressed their worry that Canada’s quit from the binding Kyoto agreement would jeopardize the future conferences.
France's foreign ministry called the move "bad news for the fight against climate change", a sentiment echoed by some other countries.
A spokesman for China's foreign ministry told reporters that the decision was "regrettable and flies in the face of the efforts of the international community".
Japan's environment minister, Goshi Hosono, also urged Canada to stay in the protocol.
Kent, however, claimed that Canada would have to pay billions to meet its Kyoto protocol target.Canada was meant to cut emissions by 6% by 2012 on 1990 levels, but instead they have risen by around a third.
"To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of ... the transfer of $14bn (£8.7bn) from Canadian taxpayers to other countries – the equivalent of $1,600 from every Canadian family – with no impact on emissions or the environment," Kent was cited as saying.
By withdrawing now, Canada ducks that cost. But if Canada had remained in the protocol, it could have avoided this cost another way: by simply not meeting its targetsIf so, the protocol committee would give Canada a harder target for a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol, taking into account how far it had missed the first period. Beyond naming and shaming, the committee has few substantive sanctions.
In the meantime, Canada, which made the announcement immediately after two weeks of talks that extended Kyoto Protocol, said it is ready to negotiate a new deal covering all major polluters. But not a few experts believe that, even so, Canada should have remained in the framework of Kyotoprotocol.
Paul Heinbecker, a top diplomat who helped negotiate Canada's accession to the protocol, said thatCanada should have stayed in Kyoto and helped negotiate a new deal.
 "How do we now tell other people that they have to live by the next one if we pull out of the first one?" he said.
 Also, some media analyses think it is Canada’s last mimic to the American move, as the U.S. is not inside the protocol.
Canada's conservative government under Stephen Harper has long been hostile to the Kyotoagreement, which was ratified by Liberal Party Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 2002.
On taking office in 2007, Stephen Harper's government found their predecessors had done little to cut Canada's emissions, no matter how much of their green rhetoric. And Since then, his approach has been to copy the US line.
Canada's current pledge is exactly the same as the US one - a cut of 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 - with the proviso that the number will change if the US passes legislation with a different target.
The close links between Canada and the U.S., and the fact the U.S. has a population almost 10 times larger than that of Canada, would probably mean that Ottawa ultimately felt it had to follow Washington's lead and ignore the diplomatic fallout.
"That's the reality. If the Americans move we'll move in lock-step with them because of the integrated nature of the economies," said Fen Hampson, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
But the move to quit the Kyoto Protocol was not merely met with jeers from environmental groups, but international controversies over its development of the emissions-intensive oil patch in Alberta known as the tar sands. Many see it as nothing but the lure of wealth in the tar sands that has really derailed the incumbent Canadian government.
"It's a very odd feeling to look north and see a country even more irresponsible about climate change than the U.S.," said the author and climate activist Bill McKibben, who has spearheaded protests against the development of the Alberta oil resource.
Canada’s pulling from Kyoto Protocol is somewhat viewed as the country’s tug-of-war with its environmental commitments for defending profits from tar sands.
Also, the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental think tank, said the decision to withdraw fromKyoto was at odds with the country's long-term interests, as even if there may not be formal penalties for the withdrawal, there will be economic fallouts to be imposed upon Canada in the years to come.

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