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Canadian withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol no surprise to Scarborough MPs - Inside Toronto

City will need to increase efforts, says Toronto Environmental Alliance

December 15, 2011
Mike Adler
Inside Toronto

Scarborough MPs expressed no surprise this week at Canada's announcement it was withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, and none predicted it would cause the governing Conservatives' support to drop.

Among those not mourning Canada's withdrawal from the world's first treaty to fight global warming was Pauline Browes, a former Scarborough Conservative MP who considers its 1997 signing and 2002 ratification by the former Liberal government "really a disastrous thing for Canada."

Since 2007 it has been Browes' job, along with other appointed members of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, to advise the government on whether or not it could achieve the necessary greenhouse-gas emissions cuts to meet its Kyoto obligations.

Each year the answer was no, the Tory government could not meet the reduction target with programs it had in place. What's more, the Opposition MPs that forced the then-minority government to pass the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act knew it, said Browes, a former junior environment minister in the Brian Mulroney government.

"It was a futile motion (which created the Act), and I'm actually surprised it was even allowed," she said, adding actually meeting the Kyoto targets "would have ruined the economy completely."

Canadian emissions have increased steadily since 1997. Now, instead of promising under Kyoto to reduce them to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, the government is considering a lower target: 17 per cent under 2005 levels by 2020.

Its federal measures "probably need to be a little more stringent," but Canada's provinces and industries are also involved in reducing emissions and addressing domestic costs of climate change the panel estimates will be $5 billion a year by 2020.

Though the United States, China and India did not sign the treaty, Canada has been seen by many as dragging its feet to slow serious efforts aimed at saving the planet from catastrophic warming.

Withdrawing from Kyoto does not mean Canada isn't protecting the environment, said Corneliu Chisu, Tory MP for Pickering-Scarborough East.

"If we are in an agreement that is wrong, we need the courage to get out of it," he said Wednesday, Dec. 14. "Yes, we need to reduce our own consumptions and we are working very hard to do so."

Canada, Chisu added, is working toward a new worldwide treaty, one that is fair and will allow Canada to grow instead of dragging it into a recession.

Matthew Hoffman, a University of Toronto Scarborough professor, said the country's international image on the environment "has been tarnished for some time" and the Conservative government signalled its antipathy to Kyoto when it took office in 2006.

Still, "telegraphing" its intention to pull out of Kyoto during a climate summit in South Africa was bad public relations "and made Canada come off just horribly at the meetings," he said.

It likely will be very difficult to sign an new and effective climate treaty by 2015, said Hoffman, author of a forthcoming book on climate governance after Kyoto.

Another local MP, Dan Harris, said the Liberals "had no plan" for meeting Canada's Kyoto goals and the Conservatives who followed them created "a self-fulfilling prophecy" the treaty must fail.

"The buck keeps getting passed further and further down the line," said the rookie New Democrat for Scarborough Southwest, arguing once countries pay the up-front costs of emission curbs they will reap benefits from a greener economy.

Canada's decision on Kyoto may further lower its international influence because "we're not seen as a world leader," but Harris did not think the Conservatives will face a backlash at home.

Neither did Scarborough-Guildwood MP John McKay, a veteran Liberal. Voters in the 2008 election rejected former Liberal leader Stephane Dion's Green Shift plan to put a price on carbon emissions, which could have helped Canada meet its obligations.

McKay bristled at the suggestion the Liberals weren't serious about meeting the treaty targets.

"If we didn't mean it, I guess we shouldn't have run on it," he said with some sarcasm.

"The reality is it has to be countries like Canada that lead by example," McKay said, because otherwise "nothing will be done" about climate change and "your kids and grandkids are going to have a mess they may not be able to deal with."

Hoffman said activities by provinces, cities and other Canadian institutions to curb emissions have so far been more significant than federal efforts.

Reacting to Monday's announcement, the Toronto Environmental Alliance said it makes actions by the city to fight climate change more important than ever.

"Anyone who thinks city taxpayers will save money by cutting climate change programs at city hall isn't looking at the big picture," Franz Hartmann, the group's executive director, added in a press release this week.

As originally published here: http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/local/article/1264104--canadian-withdrawal-from-kyoto-protocol-no-surprise-to-scarborough-mps

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