Canada to pull out of Kyoto Protocol

The Conservative government has pulled Canada out of the world’s only binding climate treaty.

OTTAWA — Sayonara, Kyoto.

The Conservative government has pulled Canada out of the world’s only binding climate treaty.

“We are invoking Canada’s legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday outside the House of Commons.

“This decision formalizes what we’ve said since 2006, that we will not implement the Kyoto Protocol.”

Kent was barely two hours back from marathon United Nations climate talks in the South African port city of Durban when he made the announcement.

But the move was a long time coming.

Canada signed Kyoto in the late 1990s, but neither the current Conservative government nor their Liberal predecessors met targets.

The Tories have always insisted that meeting Canada’s Kyoto commitments would tank the economy. They have instead set a less stringent goal to lower greenhouse gases that is in line with the United States.

Kent told reporters last week that he promised the UN’s chief negotiator there would be no “unfortunate surprises” during the Durban talks. Many interpreted that comment as a sign Canada would wait until after Durban to dump Kyoto.

The environment minister said the move saves Canada $14 billion in penalties for not achieving its Kyoto targets.

Kent called Kyoto “radical and irresponsible” and claimed the penalties would cost Canada “the loss of thousands of jobs or the transfer of $14 billion from Canadian taxpayers to other countries — the equivalent of $1,600 from every Canadian family — with absolutely no impact on emissions or the environment.

“That’s the Kyoto cost to Canadians.”

New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie disputed that dollar figure. She said there are no penalties under Kyoto, and pulling out saves the Tories from having to report that Canada is falling short of its Kyoto targets.

“It’s like we’re the kid in school who knows they’re gonna fail the class, so we have to drop it before that actually happens,” Leslie said.

Kent said Canada will now look ahead to a new global deal that forces all countries to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Getting the world’s two biggest polluters — the United States and China — to agree to binding targets will make or break any future climate deal.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries spent the last two weeks in South Africa trying to get an agreement on a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of next year.

What they agreed to is a plan to get a new deal done by 2015 that would start to kick in five years later.