Canada emerges as COP17 pariah

2011-11-29 07:36

Canada emerged as the skunk of the climate talks on the first day of COP17 amid rumours that the country is ready to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol.

Throughout the year, Russia, Canada and Japan have shied away from a second round of the controversial Kyoto Protocol, which caps rich nations emissions but excludes developing nations such as India and China.

But reports yesterday, the opening day of COP17, suggested that the North American country was ready to abandon the protocol in total, much to the disgust of NGOs at the talks.

“The Canadian government is here negotiating in outrageously bad faith,” said Hannah McKinnon of Climate Action Network Canada in Durban.

“This is an unacceptable breach of trust at global climate talks where the vast majority of the world recognises the urgent need for meaningful action on climate change and a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.”

Alden Meyer, a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Canada’s attitude was “a race to the bottom”.

He questioned whether Canada had respect for the Kyoto Protocol at all, which it had ratified.

Canada’s argument against the Kyoto Protocol was that it only covered about 15% to 20% of the world’s emissions at most and that it wanted a treaty that was inclusive of everyone, including developing major economies such as India, Brazil, South Africa and China.

Artur Runge-Metzger, director of climate policy for the European Union, said it understood Canada’s position and that it wanted everyone to join a new treaty.

Canada’s status as pariah among NGOs was confirmed when it also won both second and first place in the long-standing tradition of the talks, the Fossil of the Day.

Climate Action Network (CAN), a worldwide network of roughly 500 environmental NGOs judges three “Fossil of The Day” awards to countries who perform the worst during the past day’s negotiations at UN climate change conferences.

The “slightly sarcastic” awards are presented during climate talks with suitable pomp and ceremony.

It has become a favourite of delegates over the years.

Canada has featured strongly in the daily awards during the couple of years and had won four fossil awards in a row before today.

CAN said it awarded the second place fossil of the day to Canada following statements by Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent that they are coming to Durban to “play hardball” with developing countries.

Kent was quoted as saying that emerging and developing countries need to stop “wielding the historical guilty card” and asking for a free pass on emissions reductions just because in the past, industrialised countries had more emissions than the rest of the world.

“This quotation from the minister doesn’t even require paraphrasing in typical fossil humour – it is sufficiently outrageous on its own,” the NGOs said.

But CAN said Canada also had to take first place for Kent’s acrimonious attitude towards the Kyoto Protocol.

This is unfortunately not necessarily a surprise, CAN said.

Canada has been “separated” from its Kyoto targets for years, but it seems they are headed for divorce, it added.

“In fact, reports are saying that on Canada’s side it is already a done deal, and yet here they are, planning to spend two weeks negotiating a treaty they intend to soon abandon.”

CAN said while the Fossil of the Day has a humorous approach, Canada’s award became too difficult to joke about.

This move is a slap in the face to the international community, the NGOs said. “Countries should be asking themselves why Canada is sitting at the Kyoto negotiating table with a secret plan to formally withdraw from the protocol mere weeks after the talks end,” says Patrick Bonin of AQPLA.

“Countries should demand Canada state their position now, and if they really are planning to let the world down, they should immediately leave the Kyoto Protocol negotiating table.”

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