“The rising cost of fossil fuel energy and the increasing deterioration of the Earth’s climate and ecology are the driving factors that will condition all of the economic and political decisions we make in the course of the next half-century,” said Jeremy Rifkin in his book The Emphatic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, 2009. Recently global warming has become an acute problem that needs to be solved with collective efforts. Kyoto Protocol was the one among such efforts. Canada’s withdrawal from the protocol put the country’s image, its place on the global economy and commitments to environment under doubt.
Kyoto Protocol is considered to be the only “framework by which the world could test itself to say which countries are capable to play nice in the global playground” [i]. Adopted in 1997, the protocol commits industrialized countries to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while implies no commitments to developing countries. Since economies of these countries, particularly China and India, are advancing rapidly, they emit more and more. Consequently, share of developed countries into total global emissions will decline. Having overtaken the US in 2005 as the world’s largest overall greenhouse gas emitter, “by 2020 China’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to account for 27 per cent of global emissions, up from about 20 per cent in 2005” [ii].
This discrepancy caused Canada’s skepticism and led the country insist on a legally binding agreement which would oblige the world’s largest emitters – the US and China – cut their emissions. For Peter Kent, Canadian Environment Minister, Kyoto is redundant as a treaty [iii].
Kyoto is not a path forward to the global solution to the climate change.
Kyoto Protocol was signed by Canada in 1997, obliging the country cut greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, but the country could not meet its targets: In 2009, Canada emitted 690 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, 17 per cent above 1990 levels [iv]. Kent argued that due to the non-met Kyoto criteria Canada would be fined with 14 billion US Dollars, claiming the cost would be “equivalent of $1,600 from every Canadian family – with absolutely no impact on emissions or the environment” [v].
Climate change results into economic losses, but these losses will be less tangible during the next three of four decades, suggests The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Cost imposed by climate change will increase from $5 billion per year in 2020 to $21-$43 billion per year by 2050, being heavy economic burden “on future generations with higher future emissions” [vi].
Tom Rand, Senior Advisor of Mars Discovery District, sees Kyoto Protocol as a pathway towards global market. Upon Canada’s withdrawal from the protocol, Rand said: “We have lost our voice and credibility to negotiate something at our best interest” [vii]. He reiterated that by withdrawing Canada has betrayed “a long-term economic benefit” and lost a chance to enter global market in future. Opt-out from Kyoto was an appalling decision for Elizabeth May, the Leader of Green Party Canada, as she put it in these words [viii]:
Refusing to be a part of the global effort to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate will put Canada behind economically as other countries make investments in efficiencies and renewable energy.