Canada will not renew commitment to Kyoto climate-change deal: Kent

OTTAWA – Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, despite a tempting climate-change offer from China, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday.

Kent said Canada will not sign on for a second Kyoto phase, even if doing so meant top polluter China would agree to targets to cut its own greenhouse gases.

China has long refused to adopt binding treaty commitments to lower its greenhouse-gas emissions. But this weekend, China’s top negotiator signalled that Beijing would consider a target if the European Union and developed nations – including Canada – first agreed to extend their Kyoto commitments.

China’s olive branch did not sway Kent. When asked if the offer might get Canada to reconsider signing on for a second phase of Kyoto after it expires next year, the minister simply said No.

He said Canada’s “fixation” is on sealing a deal made two years ago at a United Nations climate-change conference in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

Story continues below advertisement

“Canada has made clear this year that Canada will not make a commitment to a second Kyoto period,” Kent said.

The NDP’s environment critic, MP Megan Leslie, said China’s move puts Canada in a tough spot.

“The argument that China isn’t doing anything, well, that’s gone,” she said.

“I’m left to ask, ‘What is Canada’s excuse now?”‘

Jean Chretien’s Liberal government joined Kyoto in 1998, but took little action to meet Canada’s targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Conservatives also ignored Kyoto after they came to power in 2006. Canada has since set its own target of cutting emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 – the same goal set by the Obama administration in Washington.

The Kyoto accord requires countries to make even deeper cuts to their greenhouse-gas emissions, but the Tories say reductions of that magnitude would hurt the economy.

The United States, one of the world’s biggest polluters, has not ratified Kyoto and the Conservatives argue that any agreement that does not include such a big emitter is meaningless.

Canada is among those pushing for a single agreement to replace Kyoto that would include all countries.

Story continues below advertisement

Environmentalists have strongly condemned Canada for its position on climate change and its approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our loss of credibility on these issues didn’t happen overnight,” Queen’s University biology professor John Smol said in a statement.

“It’s partly the result of ongoing neglect of environmental science at the federal level, but it also stems from a long history of broken promises, both to Canadians and to our global peers.”

Meanwhile, Kent also announced Canada will spend a total of $1.2 billion as part of an international “fast-start” plan to help poor countries with their climate change efforts.

Some $400 million covered the period from 2010 to 2012, and another $600 million announced Monday will cover the period from 2011 to 2013.