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In Unprecedented Move, Canada Withdraws from Kyoto Protocol December 15, 2011

December 14, 2011

by legitgov


In Unprecedented Move, Canada Withdraws from Kyoto Protocol 14 Dec 2011 Barely 24 hours after it signed a new global climate change agreement in Durban, South Africa, Canada became on Monday the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty to reduce emissions causing climate change. The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) concluded last Sunday with an agreement called the Durban Platform, which includes a consensus agreement for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol after the first expires at the end of 2012. Canada’s government under Stephen Harper essentially agreed to a continuation of Kyoto only to announce formal withdrawal after Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent arrived back safely in Canada on Monday.

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Canada pulls out of Kyoto accord December 13, 2011

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Environment Minister Peter Kent: ”Kyoto is not the path forward for a global solution for climate change”

Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the minister of the environment has said.

Peter Kent said the protocol “does not represent a way forward for Canada” and the country would face crippling fines for failing to meet its targets.

The move, which is legal and was expected, makes it the first nation to pull out of the global treaty.

The protocol, initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is aimed at fighting global warming.

“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past, and as such we are invoking our legal right to withdraw from Kyoto,” Mr Kent said in Toronto.

He said he would be formally advising the United Nations of his country’s intention to pull out.


He said the cost of meeting Canada’s obligations under Kyoto would cost $13.6bn (10.3bn euros; £8.7bn): “That’s $1,600 from every Canadian family – that’s the Kyoto cost to Canadians, that was the legacy of an incompetent Liberal government”.

He said that despite this cost, greenhouse emissions would continue to rise as two of the world’s largest polluters – the US and China – were not covered by the Kyoto agreement.

“We believe that a new agreement that will allow us to generate jobs and economic growth represents the way forward,” he said.

Mr Kent’s announcement came just hours after a last-minute deal on climate change was agreed in Durban.

“The Kyoto Protocol is a dated document, it is actually considered by many as an impediment to the move forward but there was good will demonstrated in Durban, the agreement that we ended up with provides the basis for an agreement by 2015.”

He said that though the text of the Durban agreement “provides a loophole for China and India”, it represents “the way forward”.

Canada’s previous Liberal government signed the accord but Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government never embraced it.

Canada declared four years ago that it did not intend to meet its existing Kyoto Protocol commitments and its annual emissions have risen by about once third since 1990.

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Durban climate conference agrees deal to do a deal – now comes the hard part December 12, 2011

At the Durban climate talks, negotiators agreed to start work on a new climate deal that would have full legal force. Link to this video

The Durban climate conference may have agreed a deal – or at least a deal to agree a deal – but the scale of the work that still needs to be done became plain today.

Although talks are supposed to start immediately, America’s special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, infuriated the EU by warning that much preparatory work had to be done before the negotiators could sit down to haggle.

“[In drawing up] the Kyoto protocol, there was a period of a year to year and a half of scoping out so I expect that will go on … for a year or two,” Stern said. “Then you still have two to two and a half years to negotiate, and finish in 2015.” EU officials are acutely aware that the time to forge a deal is short, and the issues to be resolved vastly complex.

The Durban conference ended on Sunday with a last-ditch deal whereby developed and developing countries will for the first time work on an agreement that should be legally binding on all parties, to be written by 2015 and to come into force after 2020.

But while the UN and most of the countries present hailed the deal as a breakthrough, getting an agreement that all countries sign up to will be intensely complicated. “Many political agreements put off the difficult actions for the next regime and that appears to be the reality for the Durban platform,” said David Symons, director of environmental consultancy WSP. “No one should underestimate the difficulty of arriving at a legal agreement between the developed and developing countries, let alone one that for the first time includes China, India, Europe and America.

“The Durban platform provides an anodyne set of words, with much of the detail yet to be agreed and the teeth not really coming for eight years. The real challenge will be in agreeing the fine print.”

Jonathan Grant of consultancy PwC said the scale of the task was daunting, as G20 countries would need to cut their carbon intensity (the amount of CO2 released as a proportion of energy produced) by 5% a year to 2050. France’s vast nuclear power programme of the 1980s delivered a 4% per year cut for 10 years, he said, while the closure of dirty East German factories after reunification delivered 3% a year, and the UK’s “dash for gas” to replace coal-fired power stations in the 1990s only produced cuts of 3% a year for a decade.

The timetable is significant, particularly in relation to the US electoral cycle. Striking a deal at Durban was crucial, because by next year’s conference there could be another president, and none of the Republican candidates would have signed up to the Durban platform.

An incoming Republican would have to make a public renunciation of the climate talks in order to get out of the 2015 deadline. If Barack Obama wins another term, however, in 2015 he will be facing the final year of his presidency. That may spur him to try to ensure a global climate agreement is part of his legacy.

Any new agreement will come down to targets – how far each country will have to cut its emissions. The motivation to increase ambitions could come from several sources, said Michael Jacobs of the London School of Economics, including people power. “By 2015 the world’s young people in particular can be expected to demand greater action as the evidence of future damage becomes clear. I think this will be bigger than Copenhagen.” He also cites the ambition of China’s next five-year plan, due in 2015, and demands from investors for stronger, clearer policies as important.

Grant suggests Britons will have a simpler motivation: “It will be people’s wallets. If energy bills continue to rise as they have, people will eventually start to manage their demand much more efficiently than now. People are left a bit cold by the climate negotiations but energy bills impact them directly.”

The magic number is two – a temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels is estimated to be the limit beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. In order to have even a 50:50 chance of staying within that limit, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculates that emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest and fall rapidly thereafter. Carbon output must be roughly halved by mid-century, compared with 1990.

In 2014 the IPCC will produce its fifth assessment report. The overwhelming majority of climate research shows the situation is growing more serious, with increasing evidence that human activity is harming the climate and a clearer picture of what the consequences will be. This may mean the IPCC strengthens its advice on cutting greenhouse gases, which would mean governments could have to raise their targets even further.

If life were simple, it might be possible to work out a formula for dividing up the cuts needed among the countries, according to emissions per head of population, perhaps also taking into account emissions per unit of economic output.

That sort of thinking will not work in these talks, which have been running for 20 years. One key issue is historic emissions – industrialised countries started burning fossil fuels earlier and so bear responsibility for most of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Balancing that, some countries have worked harder to reduce emissions than others – the EU, for instance, has, while China has invested heavily in renewables in recent years, and Japan has one of the most energy-efficient economies on the planet – so they will all want credit for these actions. Then there are the differing capabilities of each country – for instance, those with large forests provide a valuable service in absorbing carbon and want this to be taken into account, while others’ geographical or economic circumstances afford less opportunity to use low-carbon power. Japan is a case in point: having pledged to phase out nuclear power, it will be hard-pressed to find enough renewable alternatives.

Just how difficult it will be to resolve these issues was apparent in Durban. India’s environment minister made an impassioned speech in the final hours in which she insisted that equity – taking into account developing countries’ economic capabilities, large populations still to be lifted out of poverty, and low responsibility for historic emissions – must be the foundation of the negotiations. She said: “Equity is the centrepiece, it cannot be shifted. This is not about India. Does fighting climate change mean we have to give up on equity?”

China’s minister Xie Zhenhua backed her up strongly.

The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2020 China’s emissions per head will be equal to or higher than the EU’s. That will make it difficult for China to base its argument for easier targets on its large population. The vast quantities of carbon being poured into the atmosphere also mean historic emissions are less relevant – by the 2030s total emissions from developing countries in the past century could be greater than the total emissions from developed countries, apart from the US. Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, said: “These are big changes for China – these figures make a very significant difference.”

To further complicate matters, Stern told the conference that “there are other ways of getting to two degrees”.

He did not elaborate, but there are scientifically backed means of slowing global warming by tackling other forms of pollution, such as black carbon and HFCs, both of which have warming effects. If these actions are brought into the talks it would imply that the overall emissions cuts required are less.

Money will also be a factor. Developing countries have been promised $100bn a year by 2020, from rich countries and the private sector, in order to help them move to a green economy and cope with the effects of climate change. But it is unclear where these massive sums would come from.

In the aftermath of the talks some officials were jubilant that the UN process had been vindicated. For years, the question of whether countries needed to sign a legally binding international treaty or could simply make national commitments that could later be changed – so-called “pledge and review” – has been one of the most contentious issues.

At Durban, those arguing for a legally binding outcome won. “This is the end of pledge and review,” said one senior diplomat from a developed nation.

The problem is the UN process continues to be fragile. The debates in the next few years will be stormy, and there is no guarantee that there will be an outcome that will produce the emissions reductions needed.

But at least in Durban countries showed they can, sometimes, amid high emotions and frayed tempers, still work together.

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Durban talks: how Connie Hedegaard got countries to agree on climate deal December 11, 2011

Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s climate chief, has been hailed the hero of the Durban meeting that reached an unexpectedly solid outcome in the early hours of Sunday .

“She is very, very good and we are very lucky to have her,” says Chris Huhne, the UK energy and climate change secretary. “She held everything together in a very impressive manner – a class act.”

Hedegaard, below, once the youngest person elected to the Danish parliament, was the architect of the EU plan to gather developed and developing economies together for the first time in a legally binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. A deal was struck that met nearly all of the EU’s aims, satisfied most developing countries and even brought the US on board.

In doing so, Hedegaard saved the UN process of negotiations, which without a deal at Durban would have fallen apart. Hedegaard’s manoeuvring also forced China to acknowledge that it will take on commitments on an equal legal footing to developed countries.

“You could hear the shifting of tectonic plates,” said one diplomat. “This is hugely important not just for the climate talks but in geopolitical terms.”

Key to her success was the hardline attitude Hedegaard adopted. Developing countries, including China, have long insisted that the 1997 Kyoto protocol should be extended when its current targets run out in 2012. EU member states are virtually the only countries willing to do so. But while some member states wanted to offer the extension as a matter of course, Hedegaard had other ideas – it would only be agreed if developing countries also signed up to her roadmap.

That would entail committing to curb emissions on the same legally binding footing as the rich world, as an acknowledgement that the distinctions between developed and emerging economies have changed since 1997, when the Kyoto protocol was drawn up. This also made it possible for the US to join in, because America had insisted it will only join up to any agreement on the basis of such legal parity.Hedegaard knows about negotiations failing – as Denmark’s environment minister since 2004, she was the host and president of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.

There she witnessed, excruciatingly, at firsthand the embarrassment of the EU at the hands of the US and the BASIC countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China — when President Obama took his counterparts behind the scenes to forge a deal on emissions that left out the EU. European and UN officials were left visibly flummoxed as Obama announced his deal to the media. That deal was instantly denounced as weak, because countries had not agreed that it was legally enforceable, and the summit ended in scenes of chaos and acrimony.

Durban was Hedegaard’s chance to raise a new phoenix from the ashes of the Copenhagen conflagration. And she was determined to do so.

At stake was the whole process of United Nations climate negotiations. The Kyoto protocol was signed in 1997 by all countries, including the US. But the Clinton administration was unable to put it put before Congress because opposition to it was so strong. Since then, the UN talks have been in trouble. Without the active participation of the US – now the second biggest emitter – they could not succeed.

Hedegaard’s roadmap was crafted in the back offices of the European commission, and she embarked on private meetings with ministers in big and small countries. In October, she had it rubber-stamped by the EU member states.

Despite the battering she received in the conference – from Indian and Chinese ministers, who attacked the EU for trying to strongarm them — she held her nerve. Up to the last moment, negotiators for other countries were briefing that the EU would cave in, and concede that an agreement was not possible. But in the final minutes, the EU agreed a phrase that it said would ensure future commitments were binding. – they would take the form of “an agreed outcome with legal force”.

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Durban Climate Talks Produce Imperfect Deals

Negotiators at the U.N. climate conference in South Africa have approved a package of agreements to combat global climate change.

While the deal is a step forward, observers say more should have been accomplished.

After hours of political wrangling and compromise on all sides, delegates emerged from an all-night session Sunday with a way forward on climate change.

Going into the last-minute negotiations, the South African president of the conference, Maite Nkoana Mashabane told delegates the package of deals would not please everyone.

“I think we all realize they’re not perfect, but we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good and the possible,” he said.

Among the biggest achievements was the approval of a European Union plan to negotiate a future legal deal to combat climate change.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard lobbied fiercely for the so-called EU “roadmap,” saying, “We are on the brink, it is within our reach to get what the world is waiting for and what only few thought would happen now: a legally binding deal,” said Hedegaard.

The agreement calls for parties to end negotiations on a future pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 and to implement the new regime no later than 2020.

Emotions ran high in the middle-of-the-night plenary session about plans for the future agreement.

Karl Hood of Grenada, representing a coalition of small island states took issue with the language in the draft text, which did not specify what legal form the agreement would take.

“And if there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions then, Madame Chair, I’m saying that we are relegating vulnerable economies to the whims and fancies of beautiful words like ‘self-determination’ like ‘access to development'; while they develop, we die in the process,” said Hood.

The future deal will replace the Kyoto Protocol – an existing legal framework that was enacted in 2007 and was due to expire next year.

Governments that are part of Kyoto, including the EU, agreed in Durban to a second commitment period to the protocol that will last five to eight years, though Russia, Japan and Canada have said they will not take part.

The conference did not produce any immediate promises to further cut emissions blamed for climate change.

Tim Gore, the climate policy advisor for Oxfam, said developing countries will not benefit much from the deals passed here in Durban.

“They didn’t get a great deal out of this, I think this was largely an agreement which was struck between the big boys, between the U.S., the European Union, perhaps some of the emergency economies did a deal on a future legal agreement, and that’s significant, but it hasn’t necessarily delivered the action that the very poorest countries, and the poorest people within them, need here and now,” said Gore.

Parties also agreed in Durban to put into operation a Green Climate Fund, which is to provide assistance to developing nations for environmental projects.  However, there was no agreement on how to actually finance the Fund, so, for the time being it remains an empty shell.

Some of these issues will likely be addressed again at the U.N. climate conference next year in Qatar.

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