The worst kept secret in Canadian politics became official yesterday when the Harper government announced its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. In a statement made in the foyer of the House of Commons, Environment Minister Peter Kent noted that “Kyoto is not the path forward for a global solution to climate change” and indicated that “Canada will work towards a legally binding agreement to address global emissions that allows us to continue creating jobs and economic growth.”
What Would Staying in Kyoto Mean for Canada?
In his statement, Kent said that the Conservative government has “taken action since 2006 to make real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” He repeated this several times, without providing any examples of those actions or statistics on the resulting (non existing) decrease in emissions. However, when it comes to what Canada would have to do in order to meet the targets under Kyoto, he had no problem giving specifics:
To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of:
- Either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads
- Or, closing down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada.
The cost of not taking this type of radical and irresponsible action?
The loss of thousands of jobs or the transfer of $14 BILLION from Canadian taxpayers to other countries – the equivalent of $1600 from every Canadian family — with no impact on emissions or the environment.
That’s the Kyoto cost to Canadians.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May disagrees with Kent’s statement. In a Green Party media release she said: “It is simply outrageous disinformation that there is a $14 billion cost to staying in Kyoto. Staying in the Kyoto Protocol will not cost us a cent.”
The Cost of Rising Emissions
May goes on to explain that it will, in fact, cost us billions “if we do nothing to address climate change.” According to the Green Party:
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, in its report “Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada”, estimates that the cost of Canada’s failure to act on climate change will range from $5 billion per year by 2020 to as high as $91 billion per year by 2050. Impacts on forests and coastal areas will be particularly felt in terms of hits to the Canadian economy. An increase in flooding, wildfires, heat waves, and poor air quality has already resulted in increased death and destruction of property. Canada’s insurance sector is seeing costs from storms and wildfire escalating rapidly.
The difference, of course, is that Conservative Party voters are likely more sympathetic when the government needs to use taxpayer dollars to respond to a flood or forest fire (especially when it is in their backyard) than they are when the government uses taxpayer dollars to invest in projects that will reduce emissions (especially if that means less Big Oil and more green energy).
Hopes of Progress Going Up in a Cloud of Emissions
Canadians who thought that a legally binding agreement such as Kyoto would force the government to take action are sorely disappointed. Not only is the government not taking action to reduce emissions (according to Associated Press, Canadian carbon emissions are up 35% since 1990, when they were targeted to be 6% lower than 1990 levels by 2012), but they are also violating Canadian law by withdrawing from Kyoto.
The Harper government promised to be “tough on crime.” Maybe there will be some room in the new jails for the environmental criminals to join the marijuana growers.
Photo credit: ojbyrne on flickr