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Canada withdraws from Kyoto protocol

Hot on the heels of my last post, wherein Michael Mann proclaims there’s still time to make the right choices, Canada makes a very wrong one. And for very wrong reasons.

Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, one day after an update [the Durban accord] was agreed on, saying the accord won’t work.
[…]
“The Kyoto protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, the United States and China, and therefore cannot work,” Kent said. “It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.”


This is effectively an admission that there’s a problem that needs to be solved, and the solution to this problem involves all the countries of the world actually choosing the right option in this Prisoner’s Dilemma. Only, in this version of the game, the short term gain for “betrayal” is also paid back with heavy long-term costs for everyone.

I agree that it is an impediment to repairing the damage we’re wreaking on climate by not also restricting China and the US, but how exactly is Canada polluting less an impediment, Peter Kent?

“[Withdrawing] allows us to continue to create jobs and growth in Canada,” Kent said.

OH. Kent meant it’s an impediment to Canadian economics! Here I thought he meant it was an impediment to preventing anthropogenic global warming. Silly me! So why now, when the Kyoto protocol ends next year? Because Canada would have to report that it failed under a Liberal government willing to sign but unwilling to make changes, and a Conservative government who sneers at the mere thought of preserving our planet. But to hear the Conservatives spin it, there would be massive penalties for completing Kyoto but failing:

Kent said it would save Canada $14bn in penalties for not achieving its Kyoto targets. “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 said.

That’s funny, because this earlier report suggests there are no such penalties built into the Kyoto protocol. There are, however, secondary side effects for failing — which Canada will not escape by trying to drop the protocol to get an “incomplete” on their transcript instead of the big fat “fail” we’re heading toward.

The Kyoto treaty does not provide fines for non-compliance, but Canada can be penalized with heavier emissions-cutting requirements in the next phase of the treaty.

Canada could be excluded from selling credits in the international emissions trading system, and required to put forward domestic policies to prove good faith.

But the main cost, perhaps, would be to Canada’s international reputation.

“It would mean a branding of Canada as being in non-compliance,” says Verheyme.

That means Peter Kent is either woefully misinformed, or an intentional liar.

We’re pulling out before the next phase of the treaty, so we won’t even get hit with the stiffer cutback requirements, but it’s not like the Harper government would do anything to meet those targets anyway. We’re going to get excluded for selling credits, our international reputation is already in tatters, and everyone knows we’ve failed miserably. What did Kent actually avoid, then? What did he buy, by toeing the Conservative party line on this one?

My only speculation is that he’s won Canada the right to act petulant about China and the US being excluded in the face of everyone’s jeering over our throwing in the towel. That’s not exactly a big victory. We can’t even take our failure on the chin and promise to be better next time, because these asses will get to come back home and crow to their anti-science base how they stuck it to Big Climate Science, even though they damn well admitted there’s a problem. They’ll conveniently forget that while they strut and preen before their constituency. If their constituency is even “the Conservative voters” any more, rather than the businesses that will benefit in the proximate from our betrayal in the Prisoner’s Dilemma at the cost of humanity itself.

Comments

  1. eNeMeE says

    He’s won the “We did this at a time when Canadians won’t notice so we won’t suffer any ill-effects from this” award.

  2. raycomas says

    I’ve always believed that Kyoto was doomed. The problem, as I see it, is that there are all these fossil fuels being pumped/dug up out of the ground, and the high-energy economies like the US and China (and watch out for India!) are going to burn as much of this stuff as they can get hold of.

    So everyone else reducing emissions just frees up more fossil fuels for the non-Kyoto nations to burn. End result is the same CO2 in the atmosphere, but it’s coming out of Beijing or New York instead of Toronto or Paris.

    A more realistic solution is to come up with a quota system to gradually reduce the amount of fossil fuels actually pumped/dug out of the ground over time. Then it doesn’t matter what the consumers do, as the potential emissions have been capped at the source.

  3. says

    Despite believing in anthropogenic climate change and supporting greenhouse gas reductions, I think the Kyoto protocol was an awful way to go about it. That’s not to say Canada is right to withdraw – reneging on agreements is never a good thing – but rather it was a mistake to sign on in the first place.

    Aside from the oft-mentioned issue of the US and China not being part of it, I think the biggest problem is it attributes emissions to the place they occur rather than the end user. So a country can move all their manufacturing to China or India, have a local reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but cause an increase in emissions in another country (probably more than offsetting their reductions, since pollution control requirements and technology are generally much less stringent in developing countries).

    Personally I’d rather see a system where emissions are attributed to the end user. That might be a bit difficult logistically, but a carbon tax would probably work in much teh same way.

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