The Canadian government under the Conservative Stephen Harper made it clear from early on that it had little intention of meeting the Kyoto Accord's binding emissions cuts agreed to by the former (Liberal) government. And Canadian officials formalized those intentions on Monday by announcing Canada would be officially withdrawing from the treaty, becoming the first country to do so.
“We are invoking Canada’s legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto,” Environment Minister Peter Kent told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa after the Canadian delegation had returned from the UN-sponsored climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
The Kyoto Protocol, agreed to in 1997 and ratified by every major economy in the world since, except the United States, required Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions 6 percent below 1990 levels.
Instead, Canadian emissions have climbed close to 10 percent above 1990 levels, according to Environment Canada.
The resulting penalties from missing those 20112 targets would have totaled roughly $14 billion for Canada. But Canada had little chance of making those targets, driving them to push the international community toward adopting a new agreement that would include the world's largest emitters, neither of which are currently bound by Kyoto.
"The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world's largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work," The Canadian government reportedly "angered emerging economies," for their hard-line opposition to Kyoto.
"It's now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it's an impediment," Kent said.
While a five-year extension of the Kyoto agreement was reached in Durban, the more significant, though still vague agreement reached at the end of the extended meeting would require all countries, no matter their stage of economic development, to agree to binding emissions cuts. Canada and its North American partner to the south, the United States, had long held that the quickly growing economies in China and India, while not shouldering as much blame for the accumulation of greenhouse gases to date, also had to be held in check with binding cuts moving forward.
Canada's official withdrawal from Kyoto could set off a chain reaction from other large industrialized emitters already sitting on the fence, namely Japan and Russia. While neither of the two countries has officially withdrawn from the Kyoto treaty, neither one went along with the five-year extension of Kyoto approved at Durban last week either.
In the meantime, Canada is content to plod along and wait for a new style of agreement, inclusive of all emitters.
"Domestically, we will do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Kent maintained.