Canada takes heat for leaving Kyoto

By David Ljunggren, Reuters

OTTAWA — Canada’s widely criticized withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol ends a decade-long saga that began in earnest when former U.S. President George W. Bush walked away from the global climate change treaty in 2001.

The close links between the two economies, and the fact the United States has a population almost 10 times larger than that of Canada, meant that Ottawa ultimately felt it had to follow Washington’s lead and ignore the diplomatic fallout. “That’s the reality. If the Americans move we’ll move in lock-step with them because of the integrated nature of the economies,” said Fen Hampson, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa. Canada is the largest supplier of oil and gas to the United States and sends 75 percent of its exports south each month. Even though the right-of-center ruling Conservatives are closer ideologically to the Republicans than the Democrats, they rarely differ with the Americans on major economic issues. Echoing complaints by Washington, Canada’s Conservative government — a firm backer of the energy industry — insists that Kyoto is no use in the battle against global warming because it does not cover major emitters such as China and India. “There’s not going to be traction on climate change until the Chinese and the Americans and the Indians decide that they really want to do something,” Hampson told Reuters. “The (Canadian) government saw this dead cow wasn’t moving so they pulled the plug on it,” he said. Canada, which made the announcement immediately after two weeks of talks that extended Kyoto, says it is ready to negotiate a new deal covering all major polluters. Whether other nations are interested in talking to Canada is another matter. “At the multilateral level, who will ever think we’re a trustworthy nation again? … We will be seen as a country that deals in bad faith,” said Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, referring to Monday’s announcement.

Even so, diplomats questioned whether Canada would suffer immediate fallout from its decision, given existing doubts about the usefulness of Kyoto and a crisis gripping the European Union, the treaty’s biggest backer. Paul Heinbecker, a top diplomat who helped negotiate Canada’s accession to the Protocol, told Reuters that Canada should have stayed in Kyoto and helped negotiate a new deal.