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Kyoto: Good riddance to a bad deal for Canadians

By Gregory Thomas
web posted December 19, 2011

Canadians have every reason to celebrate our country's recent decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Our refusal to play the role of sucker at a United Nations poker game might even send a message to the world's real polluters.

The Chretien Liberals signed on to Kyoto in 1997 without ever intending to honour what they were promising under the agreement. And what they were promising was nutty: a six per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the end of 2012.

By the time voters replaced them with the Harper Conservatives in early 2006, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions had soared, rising 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2005, the most of any country in the G8.

Since then, emissions have continued to rise. Canada is projecting emissions to exceed our Kyoto treaty commitment by 28.8 per cent at the end of 2012.

Had we failed to exercise our rights under the agreement to withdraw, Canadians would have been on the hook for somewhere between $14 billion and $19 billion  - we would have been obliged to turn the money over to foreign governments to purchase carbon credits - costly licenses from the international community to produce carbon.

Peter Kent, Canada's environment minister, was not joking when he outlined our alternatives if we stayed in the deal: we could hit our Kyoto target by 2012 if we removed every car and truck of every kind from every road in the country, or, if we chose to keep our cars, we could choose instead not to heat every house, every office, factory, warehouse and hospital in Canada. So what's not to like about Kyoto?

Credit should go to Stéphane Dion, the former Liberal leader, who during the 2008 federal election proposed a massive $15 billion carbon tax as a realistic measure that would move us part way toward our ridiculous Kyoto commitment. Voters chose resoundingly not to follow his plan, turning their backs on the carbon tax in record numbers, ensuring that Dion and his dog, aptly named Kyoto, would never occupy 24 Sussex Drive. Effectively, Kyoto was dead as soon as the votes were counted in 2008 - the treaty, that is, not Dion's adorable white husky.

Reaction to Kyoto's predictable demise from the environmental movement has been hysterical. Greenpeace said the Harper government "has imposed a death sentence on many of the world's most vulnerable populations by pulling out of Kyoto."

It's pretty rich for Canada's environmental activists to accuse our government of plotting the demise of countless Pacific Islanders. At the same time as these people stage protests to demand the shutdown of Alberta's oil sands and the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline - two of the most heavily regulated energy projects on the planet - they ignore the flagrant environmental abuses of the planet's biggest polluters.

China also took Canada to task for pulling out of Kyoto, calling our decision regrettable and saying it goes against the efforts of the international community to reach a new deal on emissions.

That's easy for China to say. Under the Kyoto agreement neither China nor India are obliged to reduce their carbon emissions at all. That's the biggest reason the United States refused to ratify Kyoto and does not abide by the treaty. China's emissions in 2009 amounted to 7.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. Canada's were 541 million.

Ironically, while China's spokesman was blasting Canada over our decision to leave Kyoto, the City of Beijing was closing its freeways to traffic and their international airport was cancelling 233 domestic and 17 international flights. The smog was so thick it was unsafe to take off or land an aircraft, or to drive a car.

Perhaps if climate activists, politicians and foreign polluters accepted the reality that Canadians aren't willing to bankrupt their country to atone for signing an ill-conceived treaty, we'd actually take a big step towards cutting down on hot air. ESR

Gregory Thomas is the federal and Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


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