Canada Withdraws from Kyoto Protocol

Canada has formally pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, dealing a serious blow to the anti-global warming treaty that was initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.

In doing so, Canada has become the first country to officially turn its back on the treaty. Its withdrawal follows Canadian announcements from 2010 that it would not accept new Kyoto commitments. Russia and Japan both echoed those threats last year, and many commentators are now predicting they could follow Canada through the exit.

Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent (pictured above) said that Canada is invoking its legal right to withdraw. Canada’s previous Liberal government signed the accord, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has never viewed the treaty with great affection. Kent told Associated Press:

“The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work. It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.”

Canada’s withdrawal is not timely. On Sunday, negotiators from almost 200 countries wrapped talks in Durban, South Africa that would see a replacement for the first Kyoto Protocol adapted by 2015. The original Protocol expires at the end of next year.

Kent said the current Canadian government does not view the Durban agreement as a realistic path forward.

The Harper government is hesitant to damage Canada’s booming oil sands sector, the country’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, and a big factor in why it has reneged on its Kyoto commitments. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, more than 170 billion barrels.