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James Burgess

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The Real Reasons Why Canada is Withdrawing from Kyoto

The Kyoto Protocol was drawn up at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with the aim of fighting global warming. It was first adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and has since earned 191 state signatures. All who sign it legally agree to reduce, before 2012, their carbon emission by 6% from their 1990 emission level. It is currently the only legally binding accord that forces countries to reduce their carbon gas emissions, but it isn’t perfect. In fact many of the largest polluting countries such as the US, India, China and Brazil aren’t included in the agreement.
Canada are now using this excuse to justify their own withdrawal from the treaty as Environment Minister Peter Kent has stated that “their (the other countries) exclusion is part of the reason Canada is looking to withdraw from the accord.”

But it is almost too easy to see through this petty excuse. The real reason is that, like many countries, Canada has failed to reach the Kyoto emission targets; in fact their emissions have increased by about 30% since 1990. Coupled with the future economic benefits that their hugely polluting tar sands can bring to the country, it is obvious that Canada wants to withdraw so that they can continue to exploit the tar sands, regardless of the environmental damage and with out the legal ramifications from the UN. They are basically admitting that they are going to “break the law” and want to first remove themselves from the jurisdiction of that law to avoid punishment.

This has clearly raised some questions into Canada’s commitment to environmental issues.

As a Global meeting to discuss the accord got underway this week in Durban, South Africa, Kent called the original protocol "one of the biggest blunders" the liberal government ever made and said his (conservative) government is committed to a "realistic" plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said that the government is in the final stage of writing new regulations for the coal-fired electricity industry, and have begun consultations with the oilsands, steel, cement, and gas industries, but he is adamant that Canada "will not make a second commitment to Kyoto.”

Sameer Vasta, of News.sympatico.ca, wrote that “A simple national strategy is not enough: our country (Canada) should be at the forefront of the international community to create and enforce legally-binding accords to fight climate change. Kyoto may not have been the answer, but it was an attempt; withdrawing without proposing a new global solution is gutless.”

Rather than withdraw or avoid the Kyoto Protocol, these powerful countries should provide alternatives, leading the way forward to a cleaner future, rather than limping away from current attempts.

Though not a surprise, the news will anger poor countries that say the rich are reneging on pledges made 14 years ago when the protocol was signed.

As South African President Jacob Zuma said, "In these talks, states, parties will need to look beyond their national interests to find a global solution for the common good and benefit of all humanity." Global warming affects everyone, and no one country or economy is big enough to avoid it. It is a global problem and therefore requires a global decision on the solution, until then we cannot hope to tackle it.

The EU and many smaller developing states desire to start talks on a new accord in Durban, with the plan to reach an agreement by 2015 that will aim to cut emissions by 2020. However the US, India and Brazil (some of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters) all want to delay the talks until at least 2015, even though many reports, including one by the IEA, have stated that in order to keep the global average temperature rise below 2C, emissions must start to fall by 2020 at the latest. In light of this it would seem that these countries want to selfishly develop their own economies rather than help save their own planet.

One of the main stumbling points at the negotiation talks is the division between developing and industrial nations. The larger nations don’t wish to make huge cuts to their emission levels due to the negative economic impacts, but it is generally the smaller nations that stand to loose the most from a continued increase in the global average temperature.

Selwyn Hart, the speaker for the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) declared his fears that insufficient action will result in the “extinction” of some of the islands. He said that, “At the heart of any agreement should be the principle that no country is expendable,” and that, “It's morally and ethically indefensible to sign an agreement that will result in the demise of a single nation state.”


Too be fair, some of the countries abstaining from the Kyoto Protocol are only doing so in the hope that a fairer accord will be written. At the moment most of the burden to reduce carbon emissions is placed upon the industrial nations, leaving developing countries such as; China, Brazil, India and South Africa to grow with little pressure to move towards low-carbon economies. American chief delegate Jonathan Pershing has said that the United States shuns the Kyoto Protocol, but not the idea. They will accept a legally binding emissions limit in the future as long as all major emitters took on equal legal obligations. That seems reasonable!

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Fred Banks on December 02 2011 said:
    Kyoto was a waste of time, and and a talk shop that should never have been assembled. The way to deal with climate problems, emissions and the like, etc, is at the highest government levels: heads of governments and energy ministers. What is the point in sending freeloaders to big conferences in order to to run off at the mouth?
  • Ryanand on February 28 2012 said:
    I agree with you that Kyoto isn't rellay working. But, I wouldn't lay the EU's economic troubles solely on Kyoto. Seems like the inflexible labor market is more responsible.Also, the US started with over twice as high as the EU (almost 3 times as much as nuclear France). So in absolute numbers the 1.3% increase in the US is still a greater increase in carbon emissions than the 2.4% in the EU. I agree with you that ultimately we are going to need economically competitive green technologies to reduce carbon emissions, but government can play a role here by instituting a $1 gas tax and possibly a carbon tax/cap and trade market based system. This will allow those technologies to mature much faster. I agree that we don't want regulations like the CAFE mileage standards which just get abused anyway. Let the market determine the most efficient ways to reduce carbon emissions.I am skeptical that such a tax would lower economic growth much if it all, especially if it was setup in a revenue neutral way (by decreasing the payroll tax for example). The people that are telling us that the economy will be harmed are the same ones that estimated that each $10 increase in oil prices would lead to a .25% decrease in world GDP. If that happened when oil went from $20 to $60 I must have missed it.Of course if you aren't buying that line of argument for the gasoline tax, let me sell it another way. The US will never be able to disengage from the Muslim world as long as we are importing oil. Having a gasoline tax will reduce demand and also make it easier for alternatives to be economically competitive. As soon as our energy independence day comes we will never have to see our President kissing the King of Saudi Arabia again. Without a gasoline tax, he is going to be puckering up for some time to come.

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