Straight Talk
LORRIE GOLDSTEIN - Straight talk on Kyoto

Credits: REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

LORRIE GOLDSTEIN | QMI AGENCY

Canada is so often unfairly portrayed as the Great Satan of global warming by opposition politicians and environmentalists that it’s important to set the record straight.

Contrary to myth, Canada did not break its word to the international community by opting out of the Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the first phase of which expired on Dec. 31, 2012.

Section 27 of the protocol allows any participating nation to withdraw, provided it gives one year’s written notice, which Environment Minister Peter Kent did in December, 2011.

Thus, Canada’s withdrawal last month, far from violating the protocol, complied with it.

In addition, the Federal Court of Canada last July ruled the process Prime Minister Stephen Harper used to withdraw from the protocol complied with Canadian law, after it was challenged by a former separatist MP.

Also, contrary to myth, Canada isn’t alone in opting out of Kyoto.

Japan, Russia, and New Zealand have since joined Canada, with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan likely to follow.

Describing Kyoto as a global emissions treaty in which Canada has been the primary offender, as opposition politicians and environmentalists claim, is deliberately misleading.

While 191 countries ratified Kyoto, 154 nations, including China, the world’s largest emitter (21% of global emissions), and the rest of the developing world, are exempt from having to reduce emissions under it.

In addition, the U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter, (19% of global emissions), never ratified Kyoto.

As a result, the UN’s “global” emissions treaty covers only 15% of global emissions, which have gone up more than 50% under Kyoto, when they were supposed to have fallen by 5%.

The only significant players left in the Kyoto process are the European Union and Australia.

The EU’s continuing support of Kyoto isn’t surprising, given that it was the main driver of the protocol when it was created in 1997, and rigged it to its own economic advantage.

The EU did this by retroactively selecting 1990 as the base year for reducing emissions, just as the Soviet Union was disintegrating.

Because of this, the EU was able to claim undeserved credit for reducing its overall emissions, mainly because the East German economy collapsed after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In other words, the main reason EU emissions dropped significantly had nothing to do with any environmental measures it had taken.

Rather, it was an accounting trick. By retroactively choosing 1990 as the base year for reducing emissions, the EU was able to report dramatically lower emissions, simply because the East German economy went into a severe recession post-1990, dramatically reducing its need for fossil fuel energy.

As for Australia, a major producer and consumer of coal, it negotiated a Kyoto target allowing it to increase its emissions by an average of 8% compared to 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, along with other concessions.

Depending on how you interpret the numbers, Australia has either met its Kyoto target, or blown it by about 40%. (Welcome to Kyoto math.) By contrast, Liberal PM Jean Chretien foolishly committed oil-producing Canada, responsible for 2% of global emissions, to reducing its output by an average of 6% compared to 1990 levels, between 2008 and 2012. By the time the Liberals lost power in 2006, Canada’s emissions were 30% above that target.

So the real story on Kyoto is this.

Yes, we failed to meet our targets. But that’s in the context of 154 of 191 nations, including China, not having to cut their emissions at all.

Add to that the U.S., which never ratified Kyoto, going back to the Bill Clinton/Al Gore administration.

Given all this, the idea Canada should have wrecked its economy while spending billions of tax dollars vainly attempting to comply with the protocol is absurd.

By constantly vilifying Canada as if it is the major impediment to a global emissions treaty, opposition MPs and environmentalists are misleading Canadians.

The key impediment to a new global treaty — now planned for 2015, to take effect in 2020 — has nothing to do with Canada.

It is the ongoing impasse between China and the U.S., as the leaders of the developing and developed worlds, when it comes to accepting hard reduction targets on their respective emissions.

Finally, climate negotiations have always really been about global wealth redistribution, including a plan for developed nations to contribute $100 billion annually by 2020 to developing nations, supposedly to help them reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

Problem is, without an agreement from these countries, where emissions are rising the fastest, to accept hard targets, this will be the equivalent of throwing our money down a black hole.

So let the buyer — meaning us — beware.

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