As the annual UN Climate Change Conference winds down in Durban,
South Africa, Canada appears poised to withdraw from the Kyoto
Protocol. The anticipated withdrawal comes as no surprise to
observers of the federal government. In 2002, Canada ratified
Kyoto, committing to a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
of 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. As of 2009, Canada's GHG
emissions were 17% above 1990 levels. Canada's current
Environment Minister, Peter Kent, previously stated that the
government does not intend to agree to a second, post-2012,
commitment period under Kyoto. Russia and Japan have also taken
similar positions. On the eve of the conference, Minister Kent
stated that "Kyoto is the past" and touched off
speculation that Canada will withdraw from Kyoto.
The federal government properly views Kyoto as an agreement that
not only imposes significant costs on Canada, but also one that
will have little impact on global warming. Since 2002, neither the
Liberal nor Conservative governments took concrete steps to comply
with Canada's Kyoto obligations. However, the election of the
Conservative government in 2006 represented a policy shift. Whereas
Kyoto excuses the world's number 1 and number 3 emitters in
China and India from reducing emissions, and does not include the
United States, the Conservative government seeks an agreement that
obliges all major emitters to reduce their emissions. Industry
Minister Christian Paradis stated, "We need an effective
agreement. Effective means it must include large emitters."
Canada has common ground with the EU, whose Commissioner for
Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, also expressed the need for GHG
reduction commitments from emerging countries. While the Canadian
government faces much criticism on the climate change file, it
realizes that progress on the global problem of climate change
requires the participation of all of the world's major
Canada will face intense international criticism if it withdraws
from Kyoto, but such action gives our federal government an
opportunity to lead the debate towards a global agreement on
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