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Canada’s Kyoto Withdrawal Called an ‘Act of Sabotage’

2011/12/13

China and Japan said on Tuesday Canada’s decision to quit the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions was “regrettable” and called on it to continue abiding by its commitments on climate change. On Monday, Canada became the first country to announce it would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, a major energy producer, has long complained that the agreement is unworkable because it excludes many significant emitters from binding action. China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from human activity, has long insisted the Kyoto Protocol remain a foundation of global efforts to curb these emissions causing global warming. At recently concluded climate change negotiations in Durban, China won an extension of the protocol until 2017, but also bowed to pressure to launch later talks for a new pact that would legally oblige all the big emitters to take action.

“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 said at a news briefing. “We also hope that Canada will face up to its due responsibilities and duties, and continue abiding by its commitments, and take a positive, constructive attitude towards participating in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, denounced Canada’s decision as “preposterous”, calling it “an excuse to shirk responsibility.” It urged Canada to retract its decision so it could help reduce global emissions. While also describing the decision as regrettable, Japan’s environment minister Goshi Hosono urged Canada to stay with the pact, saying the Kyoto framework included “important elements” that could help fight climate change. The tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, one those most at risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change, was more blunt.

“For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, it’s an act of sabotage on our future,” Ian Fry, its lead negotiator said. “Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act,” he said in an email to Reuters. An official in India said Canada’s decision could jeopardise any gains made at the Durban meeting.

Under Kyoto, poorer countries including China and India, take voluntary, non-binding steps to curb the growth of emissions while they focus on economic development, and rich nations must sign up to quantitative cuts in emissions. The United States has refused to join the protocol and argued that China and other big emerging emitters should come under a legally binding framework that does away with the either-or distinction between advanced and developing countries.

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