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Canada: bear the heat

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Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol a day after becoming a signatory to the Durban Platform has been widely criticised. Guardian writes:

Canada has been condemned at home and abroad as “irresponsible” and “reckless” for pulling out of the Kyoto climate treaty, just a day after committing to a future legally binding deal at a major UN climate summit.

“I regret Canada’s withdrawal and am surprised over its timing,” said the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. “Canada has a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort.” China, which agreed for the first time to legal limits on its emissions at the summit in Durban, denounced Canada’s decision as “preposterous” in its state media and called it “an excuse to shirk responsibility” in tackling global warming.

Tar sands, Canada

The domestic reaction was equally fierce with the announcement by Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, described as “shameful” and “a total abdication of our responsibilities”. Under the Kyoto protocol, Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 6% by 2012, compared to its 1990 levels. But its actual emissions have risen by over 30%, making failure inevitable. Canada’s inaction was blamed by some on its desire to protect the lucrative but highly polluting exploitation of tar sands, the second biggest oil reserve in the world.

China dismissed Kent’s claim that emission cuts damage economies as a “fallacy”. A UK government spokesman said: “It’s true that taking action to reduce emissions requires substantial financial investment but it is far less expensive than the cost of inaction.” Canada’s decision was “deeply regrettable”, he added.

Japan, which like Canada had said it would not sign up to an extension of the Kyoto protocol, still condemned Canada’s withdrawal from the existing protocol as “disappointing”. China’s foreign ministry spokesman 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.”

An official in India said Canada’s decision could jeopardise any gains made at the Durban meeting. The climate official Ian Fry, from the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, one of those most at risk from rising sea levels, said: “It’s an act of sabotage on our future, a reckless and totally irresponsible act.”

Figueres said other Kyoto protocol members such as Australia and the EU had been investing in a green and sustainable future and Canada’s rising carbon emissions put it in a “weaker position” to demand carbon limits on fast-growing countries such as China and India. In Durban all countries, including China, India, Canada and the US, agreed for the first time to be legally bound to cut carbon.

The Montreal Medicoop blogged:

Canada remains the only country in the world to have weakened its emissions targets after returning from COP 15 in Copenhagen and the only country to have signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol and then say that it has no intention of meeting its targets. The Government killed the only major federal renewable energy program in the country while plowing over 1 billion dollars a year of subsidies into the oil sector.

The Government’s lack of ambition or action to combat climate change is no laughing matter. Climate change is one of the most serious issues that humanity has ever faced, and it is already affecting millions of people – including vulnerable communities in Canada.

Domestic response was uniformly scathing, for example, an article in the Star which concluded:

Domestically, the government is operating on an assumption that its own core voters have limited concern for environmental issues and, unlike the majority of Canadians, accept the government’s consistent zero-sum framing of the relationship between environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. The government’s environmental performance is an obvious potential wedge issue against the Conservatives in the hands of a new Liberal or NDP leader. If such a person can also persuade Ontario, Quebec, and B.C. voters that a federal government whose fundamental economic strategy is promoting fossil fuel exports from Alberta and Saskatchewan does not serve their interests well, the Conservatives could be in serious electoral trouble.

The basic elements of a cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy for Canada have been well understood and articulated for some time. Carbon pricing, either through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, needs to be established; subsidies for fossil fuel development eliminated; progressively stronger energy efficiency standards for vehicles, buildings, equipment and appliances adopted; better integration of land-use and transportation planning achieved in urban areas to reduce automobile dependency; the massive carbon storage capacity of Canada’s boreal forest protected; and major investments made in low-impact renewable energy technologies.

Quebec launched its carbon-capping scheme, roughly along the lines described above, according to AFP:

The province of Quebec announced Thursday the launch of a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system in 2012, days after Canada became the only country to ratify and then withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

Starting in January, emitters in Quebec will be able to buy and sell greenhouse gas emission allowances on a local market during an initial trial run that could eventually lead to a continental cap and trade system, said a statement.

The following year caps will be imposed on 75 big industrial polluters in the Canadian province whose annual carbon dioxide emissions exceed 24,999 tons of CO2 equivalent.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 16, 2011 at 2:42 am

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