Canada Turning Away from Kyoto

Published July 1, 2006

With Canadian carbon dioxide emissions currently 35 percent higher than Kyoto Protocol targets and rising every year, Canadian officials on May 2 slashed funding for programs that have failed to keep Canada in compliance with the accord.

At the same time, Canadian officials have expressed interest in joining the alternative, U.S.-led Asia-Pacific Partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Policies Costly, Ineffective

According to a May 2006 report by the Toronto-based C. D. Howe Institute, a $12 billion proposed program aimed at keeping Canada in compliance with Kyoto would fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions much beyond a business-as-usual scenario.

“The policy approach epitomized by Project Green allows emissions to continue to grow at close to their BAU [business as usual] rate,” the report concluded.

Addressing the failure of current policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with Kyoto, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose reported to the Canadian parliament on May 10 that Canadian emissions are now 35 percent above those allowed by Kyoto.

“To put that in perspective: that would mean we would have to take every train, plane, and automobile off the streets of Canada. That is not realistic,” Ambrose said.

“Canada doesn’t stand a chance of meeting its Kyoto targets,” said S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. “They also don’t want to have to buy emission rights from Russia,” which due to an economic collapse after the Kyoto baseline year of 1990 is emitting less than its allowances.

Asia-Pacific Partnership Tempting

As an alternative to Kyoto, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated he would like to join the Asia-Pacific Partnership. Consisting of the U.S., Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea, the partnership includes the three largest emitters of greenhouse gases–none of whom are obligated to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol has been criticized for requiring no emissions cuts from rapidly developing countries such as China and India, as that gives them an economic advantage over nations required to make costly cuts. Kyoto also has been criticized for assigning its emissions reduction targets in a manner that is more economically punitive against nations such as the United States than for many western European nations.

“The Canadian government seems to be searching for a way out of an embarrassing situation,” said Singer.

Unlike Kyoto, which relies on politically negotiated emissions assignments, the Asia-Pacific Partnership focuses on cooperative international efforts to develop and implement emissions-reducing technologies.

Australia, Canada in Agreement

Some people “think the only path to environmental salvation is the Kyoto path, and we don’t hold that view,” Australian Prime Minister John Howard told the Canadian parliament on May 18, “and certainly from what I heard today, from what the prime minister has said, nor does the Canadian government.”

Regarding the Asia-Pacific Partnership, “We talked to the prime minister [of Australia] about the possibility of Canada becoming a participant in this,” Harper told reporters on the same day.

In contrast to Kyoto’s failures, the partnership could lead to a 30 percent reduction in emissions in member countries by 2050 compared to baseline projections, according to government research described by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer prior to the inaugural meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership in January 2006.

James Hoare ([email protected]) is an attorney practicing in Syracuse, New York.

For more information …

“Canada Set to Join Climate Pact,”,20867,19213763-30417,00.html

“Burning Our Money to Warm the Planet–Canada’s Ineffective Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” C.D. Howe Institute,

“Breaking faith with the cult of Kyoto,” Macleans, May 30, 2006,

United 4 Jobs,