Canada and the Kyoto Protocol

According to a story being carried this morning by CTV, Canada is planning to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol later this month. GallonDaily has no independent confirmation of this news but is concerned about the possible impact of the announcement on Canada’s international reputation, especially as the news item leaked on the first day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban. Participating in a conference as a party to an international agreement while already having made a decision to withdraw from that agreement, assuming the CTV story is correct, is hardly likely to be seen as ethical behaviour by the international community. Indeed, again if the CTV story is correct, Canada may have taken a decision that will scuttle, or at least seriously delay, a Canada – Europe Free Trade Agreement and that will significantly worsen relations between Canada and much of the developing world.

There is no doubt that the Kyoto Protocol is not in good health. The international agreement does allow countries to pull out with one year’s notice. The United States, our largest trading partner, is not a party. Nevertheless, the annual meetings, as well as meetings of subsidiary bodies, do provide a place for international discussion of possible climate initiatives. The Protocol has defined methodologies for measuring controlling and measuring greenhouse gas emissions. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been made available for climate controlling projects around the world. Not just countries but many businesses have benefited economically from projects undertaken within the various frameworks of the Kyoto Protocol.

It is true that, unless Canada withdraws before the end of this year, we may be subject to sanctions for failing to meet our Kyoto Protocol commitments. However, other parties to the Protocol are at least partly understanding of Canada’s challenging circumstances and our close economic ties to the United States, the sanctions are negotiable, and there is no evidence that the other parties would try to extract a major pound of flesh from Canada for our Kyoto failure. Damage from pulling out is likely to at least equal any damage that may result from failing to meet our commitments.

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