Kyoto Withdrawal Diminishes Canada
Environment Minister Peter Kent’s announcement of Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol not only tarnishes our international reputation but also betrays the efforts of the thousands of Canadians who worked long and hard for Canada to ratify the only legal agreement obliging countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the reasons provided for Canada’s pullout in Mr. Kent’s December 12th statement contain many distortions.
Mr. Kent states that “Before this week, the Kyoto Protocol covered less than 30% of global emissions.” In reality, due to the fact that carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time, even hundreds of years, the industrialized countries named in Annex 1 of the KP are responsible for 75% of the atmospheric CO2 that is causing global warming.
Mr. Kent says that “the Kyoto protocol is not the path forward for a global solution to climate change … [A] new agreement, with legally binding commitments for all major emitters … represents the path forward.” In fact, the Durban Platform was basically a deal involving developing countries agreeing to negotiate legally binding emission reduction obligations contingent on developed countries accepting a second commitment period under the KP. Canada’s withdrawal from the KP breaks faith with this carefully balanced agreement.
Mr. Kent claims that “support is growing for our position from … the group of 43 small island states.” In fact, the lead negotiator for the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu called Canada’s withdrawal “a reckless and totally irresponsible act. For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, it’s an act of sabotage on our future.”
Mr. Kent asserts that “We are already well on our way to meeting the commitment we made in Copenhagen by reducing green house gas emissions by 17 per cent over [sic] 2005 levels by 2020.” In fact, Environment Canada’s own data shows that current emission reduction policies will take us only 27% of the way towards meeting that goal.
Mr. Kent says that meeting the Kyoto target could involve “the transfer of $14 BILLION from Canadian taxpayers to other countries – the equivalent of $1600 from every Canadian family — with no impact on emissions or the environment.” On this score Mr. Kent is half right. What he is referring to is the hypothetical cost of purchasing enough carbon reduction credits from abroad to cover Canada’s shortfall under the first KP commitment period. The purchase of offsets abroad indeed would not lead to any emission reductions within Canada. Moreover, it is highly dubious whether the projects funded abroad would actually lead to additional emission reductions. KAIROS partners in the global South constantly warn us that many of the projects funded under carbon trading schemes violate human rights, for example, when Indigenous peoples are displaced from their lands to make way for tree plantations of dubious carbon sequestration ability. In fact, some of these projects are flagrantly dishonest as in the case of schemes to destroy refrigerant gases, like HFC-23, that end up encouraging the production of more of these gases just so they can be destroyed.
What Mr. Kent fails to mention is that there is another option under the KP compliance procedure. This would involve making up for the shortfall from the first compliance period, plus a 30% additional amount, during the 5 to 7 years of the second commitment period, and not all at once as is implied by his provocative reference to “closing down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada.” However, to achieve that goal over 5 to 7 years Canada would have to cut back on expansion of the tar sands, Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
Mr. Kent cites the Copenhagen Accord as the way forward and displays a particular preoccupation with making sure that China and other developing countries play their part. In fact, after Copenhagen, developed countries made voluntary commitments to reduce their emissions by only 3.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020. Meanwhile developing countries pledged to do more, reducing their emissions by 5.2 gigatons over the same period if the developed nations kept their promises.
Peoples of the global South are well aware of Canada’s failure to keep its pledges as revealed by the following anecdote recounted by KAIROS staff member Caroline Foster: “Last Wednesday, I was walking outside the conference centre where the negotiations were taking place when a reporter for a local Durban paper stopped me to ask how I felt about the negotiations thus far. I told her that I might have a different perspective as I am Canadian, and she looked at me with pity and said, ‘Oh yeah, you must be pretty disappointed’. It is not the proudest moment to be Canadian.”