Dec 13, 2011

Canada's Kyoto cop out

To a chorus of international condemnation, Canada has announced that it is pulling out of the Kyoto climate treaty. It's clear that this is where Harper was steering the ship so to those of us watching from the lower decks it comes as no big surprise.

A cutting and very amusing Heather Mallick article - "Canada goes tabloid" - notes that Canada's environment weasel, former news anchor Peter Kent, rather than make the announcement in Durban waited until he was on home turf to spill the beans.


Imagine being Canada. Imagine doing the international walk of shame from the Durban conference and later announcing, hungover with chunks in your hair, wearing whatever you picked off a stranger's floor, and a shoe missing, that you don't care, you are walking out of the Kyoto protocol and the rest of the world can go fry itself.

Imagine making this announcement when you're safely home in the nation's capital – a strange little place called Ottawa, the epicentre of grim, a Canadian Luton on a rainy weekend – because you were too chicken to do it in Durban since you knew you would be a laughing stock worldwide.

Imagine being a Canadian waking up to this news.

Imagine being me, being asked by the Guardian to explain why my nice country, famously full of people who spend their days hewing wood and drawing water amid a stream of apologies, has gone all, well, crap. "Is Canada suddenly being run by the Daily Mail?" the editor asked, impeccably courteous as always. Oh you Brits, so charming as you insert the knife.

And the answer is an honest Canadian yes.

The history of climate-change negotiation is bedeviled with half-truths and outright lies. Politicians who refuse to face the facts of climate change spin the stats, minimize the threat and harp on the importance of livelihood and sustainability. Meanwhile the planet is heading by increments toward a crisis that seems increasingly inevitable - especially with the stonewalling and denial on the political front.

Given the current backpedaling, the idea that we can limit the earth's warming to two degrees celsius above the pre-industrial level is highly improbable. Two degrees is the metaphorical ceiling because once we get above that the risks become exponentially greater.

We're already at 0.8 degrees warming. Quite aside from the yearly increase in carbon emissions, carbon already present in the atmosphere will help drive the mercury toward the 2 degree mark. Two degrees by the way is the low end on the calamity scale. Scientists are warning that it could soar as high as 4 degrees over time.

Meanwhile Canada's conservative politicians mortgage our children's future for short term gain and act righteous about it.

In the face of the growing threat political action on the climate-change front isn't negotiable. Canadian government' claims that it is standing by a commitment made at the TK Copenhagen conference to reduce emissions by 17% (below the 2005 level) by 2020, is little more than talk especially given Harper's tar sands agenda.

Canada's decision to do the wrong thing by throwing Kyoto overboard weakens its standing on the world stage when it comes to the climate debate. It's beyond hypocritical to demand limits from others when you are rogue yourself.

On the closing day of COP17 in Durban Canada was awarded the Colossal Fossil Award. This follows on a number of Fossil of the Day awards presented to Canada for its obduracy and foot dragging. Typically when Kent announced a recent Fossil award in Ottawa conservatives in the House of Commons greeted the news with hoots of laughter. That pretty much sums up the attitude of the resident philistines.

Link also to Guardian and Globe and Mail