Canadian Minister of the Environment Peter Kent [official profile] announced Monday that Canada will withdraw [statement] from the Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive] on climate change, making it the first country to do so. The treaty was signed by Canada's previous Liberal government, but little had been done to implement it. Kent said that the protocol "will not work" because it does not cover the two largest emitters, the US and China. He called it an "impediment" and said:
We believe that a new agreement, with legally binding commitments for all major emitters, that allows us as a country to continue to generate jobs and economic growth, represents the path forward. ... Canada will work towards a legally binding agreement to address global emissions that allows us to continue creating jobs and economic growth in Canada. Domestically, we will continue to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ... We are also helping developing countries do their part with investments that will help them reduce their emissions and deal with the effects of climate change.The decision has been criticized [press release] by environmental groups such as the Sierra Club Canada [advocacy website]. UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres expressed disappointment and said that Canada still "has a legal obligation under the [Climate Change] Convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort."
Kent's announcement comes just one day after the conclusion of the Durban UN Climate Change Conference [official website] in South Africa. Delegates from 194 countries agreed to negotiate global initiatives [JURIST report] that would eventually force countries to take legally-binding action in order to slow the pace of climate change. After two weeks of debate, the delegates agreed on four major proposals. First, the countries decided to extend the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase of emissions cuts runs from 2008 to the end of 2012. Under Sunday's proposal, the second commitment to Kyoto will extend from the beginning of 2012 until the end of 2017. Second, in light of a failure to create a new, internationally-binding treaty at a climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the delegates agreed to form a process known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action [proposal text, PDF] which entails negotiations to form a legally-binding climate change agreement by 2015 to be enacted by 2020. Third, although poor nations have consistently needed help to finance the adaptations to climate change, the debt crisis has forced developed nations to also limit their contributions to the initiative. The delegates broke ground in agreeing to design a Green Climate Fund [proposal text, PDF] to pool up to $100 billion a year by 2020 for poor countries, but they did not establish how they would reach this number, nor who would contribute to it. Finally, the delegates agreed that implementing a new internationally-binding instrument would raise ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As such, they decided to launch a work plan to close the "ambition gap" between countries' current emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. Other proposals that were raised but not agreed upon include mechanisms for national adaptation plans [proposal text] and an extension of emissions cut pledges made in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancun in 2010.