Azara Blog: Canada pretty much abandons the Kyoto Protocol

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Date published: 2007/04/28

The BBC says:

The Canadian government has published its strategy on climate change, which acknowledges that the country will not meet its Kyoto Protocol commitment.

Its new target is to cut emissions by 20% between now and 2020.

Environment groups have labelled the strategy a sham, and say that when combined with industrial policies, the country's emissions could rise.

Canada is the first nation to publicly abandon its Kyoto target without leaving the protocol.
The Kyoto treaty committed Canada to reducing emissions by 6% from 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012, but emissions are currently about 30% above the 1990 figure.

Many other nations inside the protocol, such as Spain and Ireland, are a long way from their own targets; and the Canadian decision opens up the possibility that others will follow suit and choose not to meet their commitments.

Announcing the strategy, environment minister John Baird blamed previous governments for failing to cut emissions.

"The plan we are presenting today does meet Kyoto, if today was 1997," he said.

"But the reality is that I didn't decide to do nothing in 1997. I can't take responsibility for 10 lost years, but I can fully, and our government is prepared to fully, accept our responsibilities today."

The government believes the strategy may reduce Canada's economic growth by 0.5%, but that striving to meet Kyoto would be ruinous.
The opposition Liberals, target of Mr Baird's criticism for inaction during their period in office up to the beginning of 2006, pledged to re-instate the Kyoto target.
The Canadian strategy has emerged at a time when the international community is struggling to find a new path to reducing emissions when the current Kyoto targets expire in 2012.

It is also grappling with the knowledge that the treaty has been far less effective than was envisaged by its architects - and that it contains no effective mechanism for compelling member countries to meet their commitments.

There is no way Canada could meet the 2012 targets given where it is today, short of having a massive depression. (To meet the target hey would have to reduce emissions by around 5% per year for the next five years.) The Liberals took no hard decisions when they were in power, which is why Canada stands where it does today, and it is not believable that the Liberals would "re-instate the Kyoto target" were they suddenly to find themselves in power. (Unless they wanted to commit electoral suicide for the next few decades.) As the article states, there will be other countries that will not meet the 2012 target. Even if Canada cuts emissions by 20% by 2020, that would still leave it almost 20% above the Kyoto target. It will be interesting to see what the next treaty will say, and in particular what baseline will be used.

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