Is it another Kyoto?
Troy Media by Tom Harris
Many Canadians think that the days of our country being legally bound to lopsided international climate treaties are over. After all, Environment Minister Peter Kent made it clear to the United Nations that we will not participate in a post-2012 extension of the Kyoto Protocol.
And, of course, the Harper government officially withdrew Canada from the Protocol on December 15, 2011 – by which time it had become obvious that we had no chance of meetings its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission limits.
When the Federal Court ruled in July that our quitting the treaty was legal, many people breathed a sigh of relief. At last, they thought, Canada’s 15-year Kyoto nightmare is over.
But it isn’t. With the Canadian federal government’s help, we are being sucked into another Kyoto.
At the climate conference in South Africa in December, delegates from 194 countries, including Canada, agreed to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Under this agreement, the Canadian and other governments pledged to work with the UN to establish, by 2015, a global apparatus to force countries into legally-binding GHG reduction plans starting in 2020. Kent boosts the plan, saying repeatedly, “we support the establishment of a single, new international climate change agreement that includes greenhouse gas reduction commitments from all major emitters.”
According to the UN, the Durban plan advances “in a balanced fashion” the implementation of the December 2010 Cancun Agreements that Canada and many other countries say provides the framework for future legally-binding deals.
But western countries are being hoodwinked again. Cancun has opt-out clauses for developing countries that allow them to agree to legally-binding emission cuts but then never actually carry them out. Developed nations do not have this option.
Here is one of the clauses:
“Reaffirming that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing country Parties, and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs . . .”
Since actions to reduce significantly GHG emissions will virtually always interfere with development priorities, developing countries will soon realize that an agreement based on Cancun will not limit their emissions. Such a treaty would then work in the same asymmetric fashion as Kyoto.
Making the situation even worse for Canada, under the Cancun Agreement U.N. monitoring will be much more intrusive in developed countries than in developing countries.
For example, the world is expected simply to believe China when they assert that some domestic GHG reductions have been achieved – the UN cannot inspect.
Inspection and monitoring of developed countries’ emissions will be very strict, however. We saw a sample of that last year when the U.N. officially rebuked Australia for poor reporting of their Kyoto Protocol-mandated emission reductions. Specifically, the Australians were strongly criticized for not reporting emissions from surface coal mining “and from all post-coal mining activities.” According to the U.N. report circulated to national delegates at last year’s climate conference in Bonn, Australia was also condemned for failing to meet reporting deadlines and for reporting GHG emissions from land clearing and forestry in a manner that “is not consistent” with global guidelines. The UN review team then ordered Australia to fix these issues in future reports to the secretariat.
It is hard to imagine the UN openly rebuking China in this way, let alone “ordering” them to do anything.
If a Cancun Agreements-based treaty becomes international law, we will have little idea of what emission cuts will actually be carried out in nations such as China. Once again, there will be anything but a level playing field between developed and developing countries.
In the final analysis, there may be little difference between a Cancun-based treaty that the Harper government now says that they want and the Kyoto Protocol they just abandoned. While developing countries will submit their intended emission cuts to the UN, their obligations to meet those targets appear to be meaningless.
Canada, and indeed all developed countries, must therefore get out of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) that spawned the Kyoto, Cancun and Durban agreements. In the 20 years since the FCCC was created, scientific advances and radical economic changes have rendered the convention irrelevant to the world in which we now live. Simply kicking the climate change can down the road, as Kent is doing with his support of an FCCC-based climate deal in 2015, is a big mistake.
Tom Harris is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition (www.climatescienceinternational.org). He wrote this columns for the Frontier Centre (fcpp.org).