By Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, November 28, 2011
The Kyoto protocol was adopted at an international conference in Japan in 1997 and came into effect in 2005. It expires in 2012 and subsequent climate-change conferences in Copenhagen and Cancun, Mexico have failed to arrive at an agreement to replace it. So representatives of 195 countries are meeting in Durban, South Africa, this week to try to hammer out a global deal to reduce carbon emissions.
The Conservative government says it will not make a second commitment to Kyoto. It instead wants to build on the talks that began in Copenhagen and wants any new agreement to include all of the world’s major emitters.
“Kyoto is the past,” said Mr. Kent (Canadian Minister of the Environment)
But Graham Saul, the executive director the Climate Action Network who held a news conference with other groups concerned about climate change that coincided with the news conference of Mr. Kent, said it is apparent that Canada is going to the talks only to sabotage the effort.
Copenhagen is essentially a bunch of voluntary commitments with no compliance mechanism or oversight, said Mr. Saul. It is “just a bunch of countries promising to do something and, every once in a while they are going to review it and if they don’t do it, well too bad.”
The Kyoto protocol, on the other hand, is a binding international agreement that has mechanisms for compliance, he said. It has infrastructure and an entire institutional base around it that the world has spent the past 10, 15, 20 years negotiating, said Mr. Saul.
Gillian McEachern, the climate and energy program manager for Environmental Defence, said if Canada pulls out of the Kyoto Protocol next month, it will be the only country in the world to have signed and ratified the international agreement to tackle climate change, and then walk away from it.
“This news on the first morning of negotiations in Durban further hurts Canada's reputation for being a progressive actor on the world stage,” said Ms. McEachern. “Instead, we're throwing a wet blanket on progress towards a binding, international deal on climate change.”
Greenpeace activists used hundreds of LED emergency lights to spell “climate fail” on the lawn of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa on Monday.
“The Harper government continues to fail Canadians and the world on the most urgent issue of our time,” Christy Ferguson, the head of Greenpeace’s climate and energy unit head, said in a statement. “We need to turn away from the tar sands and make Canada a win on climate change.”
Garry Neil, the executive director of the Council of Canadians told the news conference attended by Mr. Saul, that Canada has become a world leader in backing away from binding greenhouse-gas reduction agreements that are essential to reducing climate change.
“It Kyoto fails these next two weeks in Durban,” said Mr. Neil, “Canada will have played a leading role, to our collective shame.”
At his news conference, Mr. Kent announced an investment of $600.8-million over five years to renew the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in Canada.
The money will be used to align greenhouse gas regulations with the United States where appropriate, finalize and implement a national air quality management system, strengthen commitments to reduce trans-boundary air pollution, and improve indoor air quality.
But Clayton Thomas-Muller, a campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network who took part in the news conference with Mr. Saul, dismissed that announcement.
“Is $600-plus million over five years enough? No, it’s not,” said Mr. Thomas-Muller. “Canada is currently giving $1.4-billion in subsidies to the tar sands patch alone every single year.”
The Sierra Club said in a release that, if Canada is not prepared to take meaningful action to replace the Kyoto protocol, Mr. Kent should stay home from Durban.
Let's pause and let those numbers sink in: $600 million over five years for the environment
$1.4 billion every year in subsidies to tar sands....
That is the bottom line in the Canadian government's priorities....money for tar sands and no money for environmental protection...all the while pleading that all countries must join the world's environment protection initiative. China, India, the U.S.....and Canada the least likely member of the saboteurs on environmental protection...are not likely to support "teeth" and monitoring on commitments made by individual countries.
Nevertheless, the larger the group of "signatories" to a climate change treaty, the more significant the obvious momentum created by such a protocol. And therefore, the greater likelihood that resistance will erode making a full-scale commitment to right the wrong we are doing knowingly to the global environment more feasible and more likely.
But Canada, the government, not the people, are becoming deservedly named as saboteurs....and the people are embarrassed, ashamed, angry and frustrated. We expect better from our national government, but in this, as in other files, the government is simply not up to the task.