Kyoto withdrawal: There must be a political price to be paid

I am just back from Durban and COP17.  So is Peter Kent.  Only he came back and announced that Canada will strike a blow at the fragile agreement that was just produced.  As I am sure you have heard, Canada has filed the legal paperwork to withdraw from Kyoto.

Never before in Canadian history has this country withdrawn from a treaty we have ratified – not on any issue. Ever.

I don’t see how other delegations that dealt with Canada’s obstructionist position in Durban, in which we negotiated as a Kyoto party, will possibly regard this as anything but negotiating in bad faith.

Ever since CTV broke the story that the Harper Cabinet had decided to legally withdraw from Kyoto – with no debate and no vote in the House – I have been, at one and the same time, certain the leak was correct while hoping they would not go through with it.

And now they have.  It is devastating.  It is even worse than all the other regressive steps of the Harper government in blocking climate action.

Kent announced legal withdrawal with a flurry of bizarre and untrue scare tactics.  As if the Kyoto Protocol had effective sanctions for law breakers like Canada.  As if Kyoto had the kind of draconian mandatory minimums of the Omnibus Crime Bill.   Kyoto has no effective enforcement mechanisms.  The only penalty would be for a country that decided to enter into second commitment period negotiations (NOT Canada). And even then it would only mean that the target Canada would negotiate (if we were negotiating) would have a top up of .3 of a tonne for every tonne we agreed to.  So in negotiations we could take into account the amount of the penalty and set out target low enough to absorb the penalty.  Each country negotiates what it will accept.  That’s why in 1997, Australia’s Kyoto target was 8% above 1990 levels, when all other industrialized countries were to go below 1990 levels. (Canada by 6%, US by 7%, and the EU by 8 %.)  True most European nations did not hit 8%.  They cut 20% and more.  Europe as a block has more than met its Kyoto targets.

Kent claimed staying in Kyoto would cost $14 billion.  Rubbish.

What are they spinning?  The cost of trying with no plan and a year from the target to reduce our emissions enough to meet the 6% target — and then deciding to buy enough credits to meet the target — could be $14 billion.  I haven’t checked their math because the whole idea is screamingly bogus.  Nothing in Kyoto obliges us to spend one dime.  Nothing in Kyoto could induce or require a country to buy credits.

And now, despite Harper’s death wish for Kyoto and Kent’s “Kyoto is in the past,” look what was approved in Durban:  a second commitment period under Kyoto.  Not enough countries have signed up to accept targets, but the intention is to do so.  Hardly “in the past.”

What’s in the past?  Canada’s reputation as a country with any integrity.  Canada’s reputation as a country showing environmental leadership.

What must not be “in the past” is our chance to avoid cataclysmic climate change.

We are running out of time (see latest International Energy Agency report).  Durban’s agreements are weak and Canada just gave them a swift kick in a place that hurts.

So although, like me, you may feel like throwing yourself down and weeping for the betrayal of our future, for the loss of Canada’s ratification of Kyoto, do not waste the energy.  Get back up.  And fight.

Get back up and resolve: Stephen Harper must not be allowed to get away with this.  There must be a political cost.

Write letters to every newspaper denouncing the will of the majority of Canadians who support Kyoto was ignored.  Spend some time on media websites.  Write comments. Vote thumbs up and down. If you have a Conservative MP, leave them messages on the constituency phone lines.  Demand an appointment. Organize protests. Go on line to petitions.  Send a donation to the Sierra Club, Suzuki Foundation, or WWF and ask them to mount campaigns to demand we stay in Kyoto.  Our legal withdrawal does not take effect until next year, so we have time to push back.

Ask why Parliament was allowed to vote on Kyoto ratification (December 17, 2002) but given no chance to debate or vote on withdrawal in 2011.  Ask why they are lying to Canadians and claiming staying in Kyoto would cost $14 billion.

I know it is almost Christmas, but how can we rejoice with our children and grandchildren when a lifeline to their future was just sawed off by a reckless government?

This is not a partisan issue.  Mulroney showed global leadership on climate.  Chretien ratified, but never gave us a plan.  Paul Martin (with Dion as Environment minister) produced a decent plan.  Stephen Harper killed the plan within weeks of becoming Prime Minister.  It is clear that the Prime Minister does not have one single solitary clue of why reducing GHG matters.  But he does understand political cost.  This betrayal must cost.

Even though it is almost Christmas, almost Hanukkah and holidays, skip some last minute shopping.  Whatever you were going to buy, your children need a liveable world much much more.