Canada Exits Kyoto Climate Treaty – OpEd


By Gladkov Vladimir

Peter Kent – the Canadian minister of the environment stated that Canada exits the Kyoto Protocol – the questionable treaty meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This move may hardly be described as surprising and numerous experts believe that Canada’s decision may pave the way for other countries, willing to withdraw from the treaty. The Kyoto Protocol, once believed to be a significant step in fighting global warming, turned out to be a literally useless measure, since numerous countries with the highest level of gas emission, such as China and India, had not joined it.

Adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, the protocol became an international environmental treaty aimed at achieving the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” According to the protocol, the members commit themselves to take measures to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. As of September 2011 191 counties have signed and ratified the protocol.

However the question of the treaty’s creditability has been raised many times. The main problem was the fact that the mandates were not imposed on developing countries, emitting the highest amount of gasses, like China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The US, which signed the treaty, has never ratified it.

On Sunday the participants of the 17th conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa spent nearly 72 hours discussing the new terms of the convention but still failed to agree on a new accord. The results of the exhausting argument turned out to be dissatisfying for the most. While the effort was sufficient to maintain the process of negotiation, it would hardly make a significant impact on the rapidly worsening ecology of the planet.

“While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change,” said Alden Meyer, director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed.”

But the decision of Canada to withdraw from the treaty may be considered the biggest failure of the conference, even though this move had long been expected. The country’s Conservative Party government has repeatedly blamed the former Liberal Party government for the entry into the agreement. Now it finally decided to correct the mistake.

This move could hardly be described as unreasonable. According to the government officials, in case of a failure to meet the treaty requirements Canada risks to face huge penalties – about $14 billion. At the same time, Peter Kent – the Canadian minister of the environment stated that the country could meet its commitment only through extreme measures, such as pulling all cars from the roads and shutting the cities’ heating systems.

The official’s decision was argued by the Canadian environmental groups. Matt Horne, the director of climate change at the Pembina Institute claimed that the minister had exaggerated the measures needed for Canada to meet its commitments.

“It’s not a surprise that it happened,” said Horne, commenting on the government decision, “But it is a bit of surprise that it happened pretty much as they got off the plane from Durban.”

However it seems totally unreasonable for Canada to struggle for meeting the treaty’s strict requirements, while developing countries, responsible for the highest amount of gas emissions, like India and China, didn’t even seriously mention the possibility of joining the Kioto protocol. Canada also has the example of its American neighbor which also keeps refraining from ratifying the treaty.

“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past,” stated Peter Kent. And it’s hard to deny that Canada’s move may serve as a vivid example for other members of the convention.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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