February 11, 2007
A legitimate news source explains in plain language why Kyoto is bunk...
... and Canada's plan
February 3, 2007
Global warming is a reality. Canada must join the global effort to curb greenhouse gases. But it has to be smart in the way it does so, and Stéphane Dion is advocating an exercise in futility.
The federal Liberal Leader wants the government to reaffirm Canada's unrealistic commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. There is no way, short of an economic disaster, that the nation can meet its treaty obligation to slash greenhouse-gas emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels in the period from 2008 to 2012. Despite their good intentions, Canadians would not accept the ensuing reality of drastically lower living standards and diminished government services such as health care. Worse, because Canadian officials apparently did not understand exactly what they were signing when they committed themselves to Kyoto in 1998, it is not even clear that it is in Canada's best interests to remain a party to the treaty.
So why are all three opposition parties supporting Mr. Dion's House of Commons resolution calling on the federal Conservative government to meet those targets and to impose hard caps on industrial polluters? Although the resolution is non-binding, the Liberals are also pushing through legislation calling for the implementation of the accord; the bill will be put to a final vote in two weeks. Either Mr. Dion is naive or, more likely, he has disingenuously placed politics ahead of common sense. What can he be thinking?
Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions in 1998, ratifying it in 2002. It became legally binding in February of 2005. Last May, after years of Liberal inaction, Ottawa conceded the level of emissions in 2004 was 34.6 per cent above the Kyoto target of 563 million tonnes. The level is even higher now, probably 780 million tonnes. But, under the treaty, energy-exporting Canada has promised to cut emissions to an average of 563 million tonnes a year in 2008-12.
It is virtually impossible to meet those targets. Suppose Alberta eliminated all tar-sands development, including all existing development. That would cripple the province's economy, but it would save 30 million tonnes a year. Suppose Ontario shut down all of its coal-fired electrical-generation plants. That would save 24 million tonnes. Not even close to the targets.
To meet those targets, Canada would almost certainly be forced to buy emissions credits from other nations. That market is tight, because the Europeans and the Japanese have also been buying credits, often from the offshore operations of corporations that pay taxes to them. That's very convenient for them. Suppose Canada bought 90 million tonnes a year over the five-year period of the treaty? At the current price of roughly $23 a tonne, that could hit $10-billion. Even then, Canada would not meet its treaty obligations.
It gets worse. The Kyoto Protocol is essentially a trade treaty. Other nations, such as the United States and Britain, sent financially savvy negotiators. Canada sent aid and environmental experts. The terms reflect that imbalance. Energy-exporting nations such as Canada are held responsible for 60 per cent of all emissions from exported products such as natural gas.
Perhaps worst of all -according to Aldyen Donnelly of the Greenhouse Emissions Management Consortium, a not-for-profit group of some of Canada's largest emitters - European nations were given more quota than they needed. During the 1990s, nations such as Britain cut their consumption of red meat, reducing methane emissions. North Sea oil and natural-gas production dwindled. Coal imports rose, leaving producing nations, under Kyoto, on the hook for most of the emissions. Eastern European nations modernized Soviet-era factories. Many European countries will meet their targets, building up credits that carry past 2012.
And that is where the trouble begins. Any nation that falls short of its commitments must carry a deficit multiplied by 1.3 onto its post-Kyoto balance sheet. If Canada does not meet its commitments, if it does not buy credits from other nations after 2012, Europe and Japan can impose sanctions on Canadian exports under World Trade Organization rules. "Essentially the treaty is operating against us as a permanent wealth transfer to other nations," Ms. Donnelly concludes.
Those are serious issues that Canadians have to discuss openly and rationally. The former Liberal government had earmarked funding to buy emissions credits abroad. But surely any federal funding would be far better spent on the development of better technologies or more stringent auto-emissions policies to curtail greenhouse gases. As a staunch environmentalist, Mr. Dion knows the extent of the challenge - and the expensive risk of failure. Yet he is pressing the government to adhere fully to a treaty whose terms Canada cannot hope to fulfill.
The answer lies in improved technology, not in a poorer society. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday, there "are no quick fixes to this. You can't just snap your fingers" and solve the problem. That doesn't give the government an excuse to ignore the calamity of global warming, but trying to meet the unattainable goals Canada set within Kyoto is not the way to proceed.
Copyright 2007 - The Globe and Mail