Canada pulls out of Kyoto Protocol

Loses moral position to call on developing countries to limit emissions

By Indrajit Bose
Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011

Just a day after the Durban climate meet, Canada announced its decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol. “The Kyoto Protocol does not represent the path forward for Canada. It does not include two of the world’s largest emitters—the US and China—and therefore it cannot work,” said Peter Kent, Canada’s environment minister, in a media briefing in Toronto. Referring to Kyoto Protocol as an “impediment”, he said that the Durban Platform was the “way forward”. The Durban Platform lays the ground for adopting a new agreement on climate change by 2015, which will be applicable to all countries. The legal form of the agreement, though, is yet to be decided and would be taken up in future negotiations.

The real reason behind Canada’s pull out from the Kyoto Protocol, however, may also have to do with its emissions reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent by 2012 relative to 1990 levels. But its emissions have risen by over 25 per cent relative to 1990 levels.  Failure to comply was inevitable. Kent though blamed earlier government for signing up the Kyoto Protocol in the first place, which he said, was a mistake. “The earlier governments signed the treaty without any regard to how it would be fulfilled and that the cost of meeting Canada’s obligations under Kyoto would cost $13.6 billion. That’s $1600 from every Canadian family—that’s the Kyoto cost to Canadians, that was the legacy of an incompetent Liberal government,” Kent said.

Countries have severely criticised Canada’s move. While Japan expressed disappointment, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said, “It flies in the face of the efforts of the international community for Canada to leave the Kyoto Protocol at a time when the Durban meeting made important progress by securing a second phase of commitment.” China also called Canada’s move as an excuse to shirk responsibility. Tuvalu, among the most vulnerable islands to climate change, called it an act of sabotage.

Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, expressed surprise over the timing of Canada’s move. “Industrialised countries, whose emissions have risen significantly since 1990, as is the case for Canada, remain in a weaker position to call on developing countries to limit their emissions,” she said. “Canada can step out of Kyoto Protocol but as an industrialised country, it cannot step away from responsibilities to future generations,” she posted on twitter.

For more from Durban click here.

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