Canadian officials are being very noncommittal about their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate treaty the country entered in 1998. Canada's carbon emissions have been rising sharply, Bloomberg News reports, and the country could be on the hook for $6.7 billion in payments to offset the cost of that pollution in 2012.
The alternative: Drop out of Kyoto altogether. Canadian officials have not said they will, but appear to be considering doing so. That has environmental activists deeply worried, while leaders of Canadian energy corporations say the international treaties have never worked, and they'd rather do their own work to lower emissions.
“Canada is the only country in the world saying it won’t honor Kyoto,” said Keith Stewart, an energy and climate policy analyst for Greenpeace in Toronto. Under a previous Liberal government, Canada was one of the first countries to sign Kyoto in 1998. The current Conservative government made a non-binding commitment at 2009 United Nations talks in Copenhagen to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, in line with a pledge by the U.S., its biggest trading partner.
The biggest polluters in the nation of 34 million say they’ll cut emissions without a treaty. “Kyoto no longer works,” said Rick George, chief executive officer of Suncor Energy Inc. (SU), Canada’s largest oil producer. “Whatever happens with Kyoto won’t change our direction” of reducing the environmental impact of oil production, he said.
The doubts about Canada's commitment to treaties limiting climate change matter. The country has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, Bloomberg noted. And these headlines come as delegations from around the globe are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for a United Nations-sponsored conference on how to combat — and cope with — climate change brought on by carbon emissions.
The despair of finding a firm, binding solution to the climate change crisis is as deep as that about another perhaps doomed international construct: the Eurozone. See the gloomy Christopher Booker in The Telegraph.
The reasons why a European single currency could not work without a massive transfer of resources from richer countries to poorer ones were clearly laid out more than 30 years ago, when the MacDougall report was presented to the Commission in 1978. And the reasons why the Copenhagen treaty was never going to happen were obvious even before Kyoto in 1997 – when China, India and other developing countries made it clear that there could be no treaty on global warming unless its economic burden was carried by the developed nations of the West.
The only difference now is that the then-poorer countries are a lot richer, while the then-richer countries are a lot poorer, and likely to become much more so when the euro disintegrates, carrying a good deal of the world economy with it.
All that remains to be seen as Euro and climate change treaty fail, Booker says, is "the cost of the devastation they will leave behind."
My, that's encouraging. Those of you reading this from the back row of a conference room in Durban, you may proceed directly to the bar.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.