Canada has become the first country to exit the Kyoto Protocol designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadian environment Minister Peter Kent explained that Kyoto, far from contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas and tackling global warming, was actually functioning as an impediment, saying: “We believe that a new agreement with legally binding commitments for all major emitters that allows us as a country to continue to generate jobs and economic growth represents the path forward.”
The decision reflected the Canadian government’s position that the recently concluded Durban talks, tasked with extending Kyoto until a new plan could kick in, were a fraud.
At Durban, the participants committed to reach a roadmap by 2015 that would bind all countries. This provided major emitters such as China, India and the United States who had either refused to sign Kyoto or were exempted from it with a free pass at least till 2020 and perhaps beyond that.
Critics of the Canadian decision claimed that it was based on Canada’s realization that it had missed its targets under Kyoto and would now have to cough up $14 billion in penalties or $1600 for every Canadian family.
Megan Leslie, environment spokesperson for the opposition New Democratic Party, compared her government’s action to a student who realizes that he is going to fail and therefore drops the course beforehand.
The Canadian decision immediately influenced the Australian political debate. The Labor government, that came to power thanks to a coalition agreement with the Australian Green party, has imposed a carbon tax.
Greg Evans, economics director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry which opposes the tax, cited the Canadian decision as proof of “how far out on a limb Australia has become as we move in the opposite direction and sign up to the world’s largest carbon tax”.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott claimed that Durban was a sham and that the conference’s conclusion “demonstrates that Australia’s carbon tax is an international orphan and it is confirming that electricity prices in Australian are going to go up and up and up”.
Replying for the government, climate change minister Greg Combet belittled the importance of Canada’s decision, claiming that it was old news and everyone had expected it.
In contrast to opposition figures who derided Durban, Combet saluted the outcome of the Durban talks as “historic”.
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