Canada: Friend or Foe of the Climate Regime?
By Uyo Salifu
Following the Durban climate negotiations in 2011, Canada announced its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Its announcement came in the wake of uncertainty as per the fate of many aspects contained in the Protocol. Although Durban reiterated the need for a second commitment period for the Protocol, it was unable to reach consensus on its future.
In the February 2012, at the Brazil, South Africa, India, China (BASIC) Ministerial in New Delhi, Canada defended itself against criticisms laid against it for boycotting the Kyoto Protocol. The Ministerial which brought together BASIC ministers, as well as ministers from Qatar, Singapore, Swaziland and Algeria, emphasised the importance of the Kyoto Protocol and expressed regret for Canada’s decision to exempt itself from the legal agreement. The Canadian Environment Minister, Peter Kent retorted later, that his country’s decision was due to the view that the Kyoto Protocol was no longer functional and a replacement for the Protocol was required.
Yet Canada also launched its Fund for African Climate Resilience on the 15th of February 2012. The Fund aims to bolster fourteen African countries’ adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The Fund, which was launched by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Beverly J. Oda and Minister Kent, could potentially boost food security and mitigate the impacts of climate change in the countries selected. In his speech during the launch, Minister Kent highlighted the importance of a global solution to the global challenge of climate change. His statement seemed to serve as a reassurance of Canada’s continued support for addressing climate change within the global forum, despite Canada’s controversial move in December.
The result is that Canada’s position in the climate sphere seems to adopt a ‘two steps backwards, one step forward approach’. Its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol was widely regarded in bad faith. This is because while the Kyoto Protocol may have certain problems in its implementation, Canada’s withdrawal from it created the impression that it was ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’. In a period, when leaders are desperately trying to arrive at a consensus for a functional and equitable climate regime, Canada was expected to be addressing the problems on the table rather than deserting the Protocol. Ottawa’s move concerning the Protocol pointed to a reluctance to be legally-bound to a climate agreement and could be setting a dangerous precedence for the abandonment of the only legally-binding treaty on climate change. At the same time, however, Canada’s show of commitment to climate finance for developing states was almost redemptive and indicates that Ottawa supports the adaptation agenda of developing states. While Canada’s latest move in no way excuses its decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, it suggests that observers should be wary of concluding on Canada’s antagonism to the climate regime. Only time will reveal the level of Canada’s commitment to a future agreement on the climate regime.
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