Ottowa – Canada said on Monday that it would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Under that accord, major industrialized nations agreed to meet targets for reducing emissions, but mandates were not imposed on developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa. The United States never ratified the treaty.
Canada did commit to the treaty, but the agreement has been fraying. Participants at a United Nations conference in Durban, South Africa, renewed it on Sunday but could not agree on a new accord to replace it.
Instead, the 200 nations represented at the conference agreed to begin a long-term process of negotiating a new treaty, but without resolving a core issue: whether its requirements will apply equally to all countries.
The decision by Canada’s Conservative Party government had long been expected. A Liberal Party government negotiated Canada’s entry into the agreement, but the Conservative government has never disguised its disdain for the treaty.
In announcing the decision, government officials indicated that the possibility of huge fines for Canada’s failure to meet emissions targets had also played a role.
“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past,” the environment minister, Peter Kent, told reporters shortly after returning from South Africa. He added that Canada would work toward developing an agreement that includes targets for developing nations, particularly China and India.
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“What we have to look at is all major emitters,” Mr. Kent said.
Under the Kyoto Protocol’s rules, Canada must formally give notice of its intention to withdraw by the end of this year or else face penalties after 2012.
The extent of those penalties, as well as Canada’s ability to redress its inability to meet the treaty’s emission reduction targets, is a matter of some debate.
Mr. Kent said Canada could meet its commitment only through extreme measures, like pulling all motor vehicles from its roads and shutting heat off to every building in the country. He said the Liberal Party had agreed to the treaty “without any regard as to how it would be fulfilled.”
He also said the failure to meet the targets would have cost Canada $14 billion in penalties.
Other estimates, however, put the figure at $6 billion to $9 billion. Matt Horne, the director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental group, said the financial penalties might have been further reduced by agreeing to additional reductions. He also dismissed Mr. Kent’s assertions about the steps that Canada would have had to have taken to meet its commitments as extreme misrepresentations.
“It’s not a surprise that it happened,” Mr. Horne said of the government’s decision to withdraw from the treaty. “But it is a bit of surprise that it happened pretty much as they got off the plane from Durban.”