Canada could undermine climate talks

The Yukon's federal Green Party candidate will travel to Durban, South Africa, later this week to attend the United Nations climate change summit that started on Monday.

The Yukon’s federal Green Party candidate will travel to Durban, South Africa, later this week to attend the United Nations climate change summit that started on Monday.

There, representatives from 192 countries are trying to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Canada’s Conservative government has the dubious distinction of having won the “colossal fossil” award from environmentalists at successive climate talks, for dithering at best, and being obstructive at worst.

And it may well be up for another prize. The Canadian government plans to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol early next month, according to an unsourced report by CTV News.

“We’re not playing fair, and as a Canadian, I’m concerned because I’ve always believed as Canadians we’d do the right thing,” said John Streicker, a Whitehorse climate scientist who has stood for the Greens in two federal elections and is now the party’s president.

“If you’re going to negotiate in good faith, you need to disclose if you have big moves coming.”

A new, binding agreement would depend upon all countries reaching consensus. Rumours of Canada’s plan to exit Kyoto – which Environment Minister Peter Kent refuses to confirm or deny – may give other countries cover to cop out, said Streicker.

“Once a country pulls out, other countries can pull out.”

The Kyoto Protocol called on countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels. Instead, Canada’s emissions have soared, thanks to inaction by successive Liberal and Conservative governments, said Streicker.

Canada now aims to drop carbon emissions 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. That new baseline is advantageous because it ignores a 30 per cent rise in emissions over the intervening 15 years, said Streicker.

“It’s become a shell game for numbers,” he said.

The Kyoto Protocol was supposed to be a binding deal. But it didn’t include penalties for scofflaws – that was supposed to be hashed out in a future agreement.

That could help explain a Canadian withdrawal from Kyoto. Staying in could result in hefty fines, in the form of emissions credits.

Andrew Leach, a University of Alberta economics professor who blogs about climate issues, compares this to a student dropping out of class before he fails.

Canada’s not the only country playing hardball at the climate talks. Japan, Russia, and other industrialized powers want a new deal that would include big, developing nations like China, which were excluded from Kyoto.

Ultimately, if Canada wants to get serious about lowering emissions, it will need to put a price on carbon – either through a tax, or a cap and trade system, said Streicker.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is opposed to any such measure. They should look to British Columbia, said Streicker.

The province has a carbon tax, “and their economy didn’t fall apart,” said Streicker.

The same goes for Sweden, which introduced a carbon tax 20 years ago. Australia plans to introduce a carbon tax next year.

Few seem optimistic about a new, binding deal being brokered at Durban, which is the last such meeting before Kyoto expires. An agreement could always be reached at a later date, but Streicker warned against merely trying to kick the can further down the road.

“What if we go ask for another two years – then, another two years? And another two years?” asked Streicker. He noted that, before Durban, leaders tried to craft a new deal at Copenhagen, and then Cancun.

Canada produces just two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, and contains approximately half a per cent of the global population. But that doesn’t mean our country can’t play a constructive role at climate talks, said Streicker.

“There’s a lot of empty rhetoric in our commitments. I’d like to see us roll up our shirtsleeves a bit,” he said. “We’re gutting our international reputation right now.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read