Canada Withdraws from Kyoto Protocol

Published February 2, 2012

Canada is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, delivering another setback to advocates of global treaties to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

‘Not a Way Forward’
The Protocol expires this year, but global warming advocates have been hoping to pull together a Kyoto 2 treaty building on the original Protocol. Canada is the first nation to withdraw from Kyoto, signaling it considers the Protocol a failure.

“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past, and as such, we are invoking our legal right to withdraw from Kyoto,” Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said in a press statement. The treaty, according to Kent, “does not represent a way forward for Canada.”

The decision represents little more than “embarking on reality,” said William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Were they to continue in the Kyoto Protocol, they would have faced fines for not having met the targets they signed up to in 1998.”

China Illustrates Failure
China, which emits more carbon dioxide than any nation on earth and has repeatedly refused to agree to any restrictions on its emissions, denounced Canada’s decision as “irresponsible.”
Yet for many observers, China’s reaction reinforced why international climate treaties have failed. Nearly all the burdens fall on Western democracies, while leading carbon dioxide emitters do nothing to reduce their emissions.

Avoids Economic Pain
Article 27 of the treaty gives any participating nation the authority to withdraw once the protocol has been in force for three years. The nation must give a year’s notice of intent to withdraw. The first commitment period for participating parties to reduce emission levels wraps up at the end of 2012, so Canada’s announcement means it won’t have to comply with any reduction goals or pay any penalties for failing to do so.

That will save Canada billions of dollars, according to Kent.

“To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of [transferring] $14 billion from Canadian taxpayers to other countries, the equivalent of $1,600 from every Canadian family, with no impact on emissions or the environment,” he said, according to published statements in the Guardian.

“The International Energy Agency says it would cost $45 trillion to remake the global economy” to comply with stated emission reduction goals, Yeatman explained. “That would require a burden sharing amongst nations of the world that is unrivaled. There’s no precedent for burden sharing of this magnitude, not even with wars.”

Cheryl Chumley, [email protected], writes from northern Virginia.