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Whatever comes out of Durban this year will gather dust along with the other reports. Kyoto died a few years ago, and it will remain dead.

On the eve of the Dustbin in Durban, an apt nickname for the doomed UN Framework climate talks that opened Monday in South Africa, it looks like the Kyoto Protocol will not go gently into the night, at least not for Canada.

When Environment Minister Peter Kent stated the obvious — which is that the global protocol to control carbon emissions was “in the past” as far as Canada is concerned — he was denounced on all fronts. The Green Party, the Liberal party, the Pembina Party, the Greenpeace Party and other standard-bearers of the 1997 status quo on climate policy were instantly aflame with indignation that Mr. Kent should dare to utter such blasphemy.

“Shameful” and “sabotage,” said Elizabeth May, the Green leader. Liberal environment critic Kristy Duncan called Mr. Kent’s position “cowardly,” and accused Canada of negotiating in bad faith. Greenpeace described Canada’s failure to live up to its Kyoto commitment a failure of “epic proportions.”

As Mr. Kent tried to make clear to reporters Monday: Rumours that the Kyoto Protocol is still alive are greatly exaggerated. Whether the Harper Conservatives have actually decided to formally pull out of Kyoto in December — as reported — Mr. Kent would not confirm. It is clear, however, that Canada is out of Kyoto, the great green monster former prime minister Jean Chrétien agreed to in Japan in 1997, committing to rip apart the economy in an attempt to get national carbon emissions down to 6% below 1990 levels.

If Canada has a plan to declare its intentions in December, it might be related to an escape clause in the Kyoto Protocol itself, which says that “any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date” of the declaration to withdraw.

But who knows? And who could possibly care, given that a) Kyoto expires at the end of 2012, b) it is not binding on Canada and c) a score of other countries, including Russia and Japan, have also announced their abandonment of Kyoto?

That the greens are turning blue over the Harper government’s climate-change policy is in any case so much political theatre, a replay of previous climate meeting set-ups in which Canada was portrayed for local media consumption to be the bad boy of global climate policy. The reality is that climate-change policy, set on a global scale, is going nowhere and theatre is about all that’s left to be played out in Durban.

What else can one expect of an event where 4,000 people show up to participate in decisions involving 190 countries, rich and poor, developed and developing, democracies and thuggeries, each with a different take on the value of curbing carbon emissions to fight what may well be a scientific phantom known as climate change.

The Durban meeting represents the political half of the UN climate operation, known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It will attempt to forge a global consensus on how to prevent the world’s average temperature from rising more than two degrees Centigrade by the end of the century. The UN science arm, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), claims that if carbon emissions continue at current rates, temperatures will rise by more than two degrees, triggering a planetary catastrophe.

Myriad forces are working to consign Durban to the dustbin of climate meetings.

The economy If governments are going to engage in draconian policy interventions today, they are more likely to do so in the name of the economy rather than the climate. The global financial crisis dominates all governments around the world, and the idea of bringing in global controls on carbon emissions that will undermine growth is simply not to be contemplated.

The science Activists, warmists and leftists — who have a perverse fixation on climate change as a vehicle for tearing down what they call the capitalist system — are trying hard to maintain the fiction that global warming is based on immutable science. But it’s getting harder and harder to keep up the façade.

A new release of emails from the world’s leading climate scientists adds more evidence that the science is at best a work in progress. Canadian officials have yet to acknowledge that the science looks increasingly shaky, based on hyped-up climate histories, unreliable climate models and a consensus manufactured by repression and manipulation.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of strategy and green policy advisor, Steve Hilton, is alleged to have said of climate change: “I’m not sure I believe in it.” He hasn’t denied saying this, although it is apparently known that he has “become a big fan” of former chancellor Nigel Lawson, a vocal critic of the global warming lobby.

While most mainstream media continue to uphold the IPCC’s science alarmism, it is increasingly clear that public opinion is not following the official line.

The politics The European Union, in part for economic reasons, has recently abandoned plans to go it alone as the greenest region in the world. It now says it will only agree to an extension of the Kyoto Protocol under certain conditions. The United States, in the midst of a debt crisis under President Barack Obama and heading into an election year, is in no mood for climate policy.

Plans for a Green Climate Fund that would cycle $100-billion from rich to poor countries are being side-tracked by the United States, among other nations.

Brazil, China, India and South Africa — known as the BASIC nations — are all in favour of carbon emissions targets, so long as they are lower than targets set for developed nations such as Canada. This, as they say, is likely a non-starter.

Climate-change fatigue The wavering of commitment to global targets has been building since the Kyoto Protocol was reached in 1997. The UNFCCC began talks on replacing Kyoto after its 2012 expiry date several years ago. They produced the Bali Action Plan in 2007, followed by the Copenhagen Accord of 2009 and the Cancun Agreements of 2010, each one more watery than its predecessor.

Whatever comes out of Durban this year will gather dust along with the other reports. Kyoto died a few years ago, and it will remain dead.

A new IPCC science report isn’t due until September 2013. As the science comes under scrutiny, it could turn out to be less alarmist than the current conventional wisdom. Until then, at least, there will be no action at the UNFCCC policy conference, either this year in Durban or in the next couple of years.

On Kyoto, Peter Kent has it right.

Financial Post, 29 November 2011