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Lorrie Goldstein: Happy New Year, Kyoto Is Dead

Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun

As of today, the Kyoto protocol is a zombie treaty. It’s a corpse that keeps moving, but it’s dead. Kyoto died Monday at midnight when the greenhouse gas cuts it set for 37 industrialized nations between 2008 and 2012 expired.

But, just like the walking dead, it rose from the grave Tuesday because 195 countries at a UN conference in Doha, Qatar last month agreed to pretend it’s still alive.

They “extended” Kyoto, pending the ratification of a new treaty by 2015, to take effect in 2020.

In other words, they kicked the zombie down the road for a few more years, while agreeing to maintain the fiction among themselves that Kyoto is a “global” emissions treaty, when it actually covers only 15% of global emissions.

Indeed, because Kyoto made no demands on the developing world, where emissions are rising the fastest, global emissions increased throughout the period covered by the treaty.

Canada withdrew from Kyoto last month, having given its obligatory one-year notice last December.

In doing so, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives finally corrected the huge and reckless blunder Jean Chretien and the Liberals committed by signing on to Kyoto in 1998.

Stephen Harper

How Chretien, as the leader of a large, cold, northern, oil-exporting country, could have committed Canada to an emissions treaty that excluded the U.S. and required nothing of China, defies explanation to this day.

Even Chretien’s top political aide, Eddie Goldenberg, has since admitted that when the Liberals signed Kyoto, they knew they couldn’t implement its target of cutting our emissions by an average of 6% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

The proof of that lies in the fact that by the time the Liberals were tossed from power in 2006, Canada’s emissions were 30% above the Kyoto target to which Chretien had agreed.

That meant the new Conservative government would have had to wreck the Canadian economy to achieve Chretien’s unattainable goal.

Harper finally stopped paying lip service to this ridiculous idea a year ago, when Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada was withdrawing from Kyoto.

That was the first sensible thing a Canadian government had done on this issue in 13 years.

While Canada continues to participate in negotiations to craft a new global emissions treaty, the danger is that all the problems that made Kyoto such a disaster remain in place.

It still makes no sense for Canada to agree to any international treaty to reduce its emissions unless the U.S. and China are on board.

And it still makes no sense for Canada to contribute billions of dollars to help developing nations reduce their emissions, unless those nations first commit to lowering their emissions.

In the real world, which rarely intrudes into political discussions about Kyoto, no significant reduction in global greenhouse gases can begin until China and the U.S., the world’s two top emitters, dramatically reduce their reliance on coal to produce electricity.

By comparison, the development of Canada’s oil sands is insignificant.

The oil sands represent about one-tenth of 1% of global emissions and Canada, as a whole, produces 2% of global emissions, compared to 21% for China and 19% for the U.S.

Given that reality, we simply can’t afford to be as stupid on this issue as Chretien was, ever again.

Toronto Sun, 1 January 2012