Kent must announce Kyoto withdrawal at UN climate summit
by Tom Harris
The Harper Conservative government has always been clear that Canada is not going to meet its Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target. They now have only to the end of the month to officially quit the protocol, as allowed under the treaty’s Article 27, or we will be in gross violation of what many regard as international law.
The Prime Minister must quickly decide—is it better for Canada to not meet our Kyoto target and thereby break an important worldwide agreement or is it better to simply withdraw from the protocol and so violate nothing except the sensitivities of climate campaigners?
From a climatic perspective, our failure to meet our target makes no difference at all. Canada’s emissions represent only 2% of the world’s total and 80% of the world’s population live in nations that have no protocol emission limits whatsoever. China’s economy is expanding so rapidly that between 2009 and 2010 its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by more that twice the entire Canadian 2010 output. The fact that the science backing Kyoto is dubious at best, if not completely wrong, should have put the issue to rest years ago.
But it did not. Our government and industry leaders continued to assure the public and the international community that Canada was doing its part to “stop climate change”—an impossible objective—and so would remain an active participant in Kyoto. This failure of nerve has cost us enormously. The Auditor General reported that $9 billion was allocated to climate-related projects by the federal government in 2010. They, along with Saskatchewan and Alberta, have allocated billions more to capturing and storing CO2underground. On Monday, Canada committed another $400 million to fulfilling our entirely optional Copenhagen Accord commitments.
And for what? To appease an environmental movement that polls show no longer represents mainstream Canadians? To boost our reputation at international climate talks where we are attacked no matter what do because we are a major oil supplier to the US?
The government and industry’s frequent pandering to loud, misinformed environmental lobby groups is a serious mistake. Climate campaigners ’disdain for the Conservatives, not to mention natural resources industries in general, is a permanent condition, not swayed by logic or compromise. Harper seemed to recognize this on Monday when, with reference to the Northern Gateway Pipeline linking the oil sands to Kitimat, BC, he told Global News that,“I think environmentalists will oppose any of these projects”,implying that this had no impact on his support for the pipeline.
Canada’s government and corporate leaders must show such backbone more often.
They must stop feeding the fire that threatens to burn down our natural resources sector, by far the largest source of Canada’s wealth. Government and industry must no longer use the rhetoric of climate alarmism and call a spade a spade: CO2 is not a pollutant and its influence on global climate is unknown but appears to be small. Climate always changes naturally, sometimes dangerously so. Consequently, we should help our most vulnerable citizens prepare for whatever nature throws at us next. The vast sums being funneled into climate control is a complete waste.
Next, the government needs to invite scientists from both sides of the climate debate to testify before Commons and Senate committees to help members acquire a more realistic perspective. While the Commons environment committee occasionally heard from well-qualified climate realists while the Liberals were in power, not a single scientist skeptic has testified on Harper’s watch. Judging from House of Commons Question Periods, there is a great deal of basic scientific literacy upgrading required in Parliament if Canada is to enable rational climate policies. Open climate science hearings must start without delay.
Some claim that a violation of Kyoto does not matter since penalties are imposed only if we sign on to a second compliance period, something the government has sworn not to do. Others care about Canada’s reputation as an honest broker and recognize that breaking such an important agreement when there is a legitimate mechanism in place to legally withdraw is irresponsible.
Canada has an important leadership role to play at the UN climate conference in South Africa. Environment Minister Peter Kent needs to unashamedly announce that we are exiting the Kyoto Protocol and all other futile attempts to control the world’s climate. Instead, Kent must say, Canada is focusing on helping the world’s most vulnerable peoples cope with climate change while we do our own independent evaluation of the science.
This would demonstrate that Canadians value honesty above political expediency on the climate file, setting an important precedent for other nations to follow.
Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (climatescienceinternational.org).