Canada backs out of Kyoto Protocol

Scott Tong Dec 13, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: Here’s something you don’t hear everyday: today, China and Japan expressed disappointment with Canada over its pollution. That’s because Canada announced it’s pulling out of the landmark Kyoto Protocol treaty. Canada has a number of reasons, but especially because the country’s a major oil exporter — including oil from controversial and dirty oil sands.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong is with us live now from our sustainability desk with the latest on that story. Hey Scott.

Scott Tong: Hey Steve.

Chiotakis: Why did the Canadians do this? I mean, I thought there was some big climate agreement out of the South African summit last week in Durban, right?

Tong: Well, they got off the plane back in Ottowa, and they said, “We’re out of this treaty.” Now what they’re out of is the Kyoto Protocol from ’97. The rich countries back then — all except the U.S. — ratified it, and that committed them to caps on carbon pollution.

Well, turns out, Canada’s gonna miss its target by a mile… or I guess there, it’s a kilometer. So it’s pulling out because had it stayed in Kyoto Protocol, Ottowa might have been subject to billions of dollars in payments. So this avoids that.

Now, here’s their argument: Kyoto is very 14 years ago. The big industrial emitters back then did not include China, did not include Brazil, did not include South Africa, Steve.

Chiotakis: So that’s it then, Scott? Now Canada can drill all they want, no repercussions?

Tong: Well, we had these Durban talks, so in a way, this old Kyoto stuff is symbolic. But here’s how that matters.

I spoke this morning to Warren Mabee at Queens University in Ontario. And as he sees it, his country has now lost credibility in the talks.

Warren Mabee: If we come in with a new plan or new options, at this point it will not carry a lot of weight, because we’ve not been able to stand up to the commitments we made before. And that’s incredibly disappointing.

Now going forward, Steve, it is all about these Durban talks — which wrap in everyone, including Canada, including us.

Chiotakis: Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Washington. Scott, thanks.

Tong: You’re welcome.

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