Canada first nation to cut ties with Kyoto protocol

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Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent delivers a statement announcing Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 12, 2011. Photo - Chris Wattie/Reuters

Canada became the first country to announce its withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol on climate change delivering a major blow to an already troubled global treaty. The country’s environment minister said Ottawa has better things to do rather than adhering to the protocols that ‘present no way forward’ to Canada.

The protocol which was initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 is aimed at fighting global warming. The 37 countries committed themselves to a reduction of six greenhouse gases for the sake of preserving mother earth for future generations.

“As we’ve said, Kyoto for Canada is in the past … We are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto,” Minister of Environment Peter Kent told reporters.

“To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car truck, all-terrain vehicle, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle off every kind of Canadian road,” he added.

The Kyoto protocol sets specific emissions reduction targets for each industrialised nation, but excludes developing countries. To meet their targets, most ratifying nations would have to combine several strategies which includeplacing restrictions on their biggest polluters,managing transportation to slow or reduce emissions from automobiles andmake better use of renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power, and biodiesel to replace fossil fuels.

The United States of America refused to sign the protocol basing on the fact that it “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.

CODE RED

The accord was signed by Canadas previous Liberal government but did little to implement it while Prime Minister Stephen Harpers Conservative government never embraced it.

Canada, joined by Japan and Russia, said last year it will not accept new Kyoto commitments, Now Canada has decided it is time to act.

The environment Minister Peter Kent announced the withdrawal on his return from talks in Durban, where the countries agreed to extend Kyoto for five years and try to straighten out a deal forcing all big polluters for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emission.

The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the worlds largest two emitters, China and India, and therefore cannot work, Kent said. Its now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything, its an impediment.

He said the Kyoto Protocol originally covered countries generating less than 30 per cent of global emissions and now it covers just 13 per cent. He insisted Canada is committed to addressing climate change in a way that is fair. Harper administration demanded any agreement must cover all nations.

The accord requires countries to give a years notice to withdraw. Kent said the move saves Canada $14 billion in penalties for not achieving its Kyoto targets.

“The writing on the wall for Kyoto has been recognised by even those countries which are engaging in a second commitment,” he said. Kyoto’s first phase was due to expire at the end of 2012 but has now been extended until 2017.

To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads or closing down the entire farming and agriculture sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada, Kent described.

RESOURCES AND COST

Ottawa says they emit only 2% of global greenhouse gas, but a closer look at its oils sands sector says otherwise. The Canadian government has been reluctant to hurt its booming oil sands production which is the countrys fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and a major reason for reneging on its Kyoto commitments.

Canada is the largest supplier of oil and natural gas to the United States and is keen to boost output of crude from Alberta’s oil sands, which requires large amounts of energy to extract. It has the worlds third-largest oil reserves, more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025.

However, critics say the enormous amount of energy and water needed in the extraction process lead to increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

RED REBEL

The withdrawal sets Canada on course of becoming a climate renegade. Canadian governments have complained over the years that the main reason Kyoto is unworkable is because it excludes many significant emitters.

The announcement will do little to help Canada’s international reputation. Green groups denounced Ottawa’s decision and awarded the ‘Fossil of the Year’ award for its poor performance in Durban.

“It’s a national disgrace. Prime Minister Harper just spat in the faces of people around the world for whom climate change is increasingly a life and death issue,” Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada told reporters.

Mike Hudema of Greenpeace Canada said in a statement that it is further signal that the Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people.

Opposition New Democrat lawmaker Megan Leslie disputed the dollar figures involved and said there are no penalties under Kyoto. Leslie said pulling out from the treaty saves the Conservatives from having to report that Canada is falling short of its Kyoto targets.

Our government is abdicating its international responsibilities. Its like were the kid in school who knows theyre gonna fail the class, so we have to drop it before that actually happens, Leslie said.

EARTH’S FUTURE

Scientists say that if levels of greenhouse gases continue to rise, eventually the worlds climate will reach a tipping point, leading to irreversible melting of polar ice sheets and several metres rise in sea levels.

They cannot pinpoint exactly when that would happen, but the two-decade-long climate negotiations have been focused on preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above current levels by the end of this century.

(Written by Rizana Jahan; Edited by Moign Khawaja)

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