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Merry, Tarry Christmas: Canada Exits Kyoto

After playing coy for the duration of the COP-17 climate talks in Durban, Canada Environment Minister Peter Kent announced a day after returning home that the country would indeed pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding climate-change mechanism to date in the world.
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It's official: Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 when the existing agreement expires, becoming the first country ever to formally withdraw from the accords.

“The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work,” Kent said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.”

His announcement came a day after he returned from the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which adjourned on Sunday December 11.

In being the first country to exit the Protocol—although the U.S. has never joined—Canada earned outright censure from China, Japan and other countries. Under its commitment, Canada was supposed to reduce its greenhouse gases by six percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, but those emissions by some estimates may be more than 30 percent above that, The Globe and Mail reported.

Indeed, emissions from the Alberta oil sands, which holds the world's third-largest oil reserves, are going in the wrong direction. With more than 170 billion barrels, by 2025 the 1.5 million barrels produced daily is slated to rise to 3.7 million, the AP said. Currently Canada's oil sands are its fastest-growing source of emissions.

“It allows us to continue to create jobs and growth in Canada,” Kent told reporters about the withdrawal, according to the AP.

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China and Japan called the decision regrettable. China, although it is one of the world's largest emitters, has less strict requirements because of its status as a developing nation, one of the reasons Canadian leaders think the accords won't work.

"It is regrettable and flies in the face of the efforts of the international community for Canada to leave the Kyoto Protocol at a time when the Durban meeting, as everyone knows, made important progress by securing a second phase of commitment to the Protocol," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters, according to Reuters.

A last-minute agreement at Durban extended the Kyoto Protocol commitment through 2017, with a sketch of a treaty to include all nations in binding commitments by 2020.

None of this is soon enough for countries like Tuvalu, an island nation in the South Pacific that is already affected by rising sea levels.

"For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, its an act of sabotage on our future," Ian Fry, its lead negotiator, told Reuters. "Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act."

Canada had already come under fire throughout the Durban talks, from censure over its harsh stance on developing nations, emissions and the Protocol, to the tongue-in-cheek but deadly serious Fossil Awards bestowed by the Climate Action Network, of which it won several.

The country is taking heat domestically too, with rising opposition to an expansion of the Alberta oil sands operations as the U.S. postpones its decision on the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline that would wend its way to the Gulf of Mexico through environmentally sensitive areas and sacred sites.