Canada Prioritizes Energy Over Climate Treaty

Canada’s conservative government withdraws from the Kyoto climate change treaty to aid its oil sands industry.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada during a Commonwealth of Nations summit in Perth, Australia, October 30
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada during a Commonwealth of Nations summit in Perth, Australia, October 30 (Canadian Prime Minister’s Office)

Canada will be the first nation to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the country’s environmental minister announced on Monday.

Canada’s conservative party, which took power in 2006, has hinted for years that will not meet emission standards under the Kyoto treaty which was signed in 1997.

The country’s liberal government entered Kyoto last decade and committed to cut Canada’s emissions by 6 percent compared to 1990s levels next year. It’s not going to make that without drastically reining in the nation’s energy sector. In 2009, greenhouse emissions were 17 percent higher than they were in 1990.

According to Wikistrat researcher Katherine Kokkinos, the move indicates Canada’s intention to prioritize national energy interests over global environmental concerns. “With an estimated 175 billion barrels of oil, Canadian oil sands present huge economic opportunities,” she points out.

Albertan tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases but also a critical source of income with daily production of 1.5 million barrels expected to more than double in the next fifteen years.

Canada’s largest customer is the United States, a trade relationship that is worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year, according to Kokkinos, who specializes in energy security. “Exporting oil to the United States will enhance Canada’s energy security and stimulate its economy as the United States will be a reliable, accessible importer, providing a steady stream of oil revenue.” Canada is in fact America’s largest provider of hydrocarbon imports.

“In the absence of a strong international commitment to transition into a clean energy future, Canada is optimizing is current economic and energy standings by investing in its oil sands,” she concludes. As its government reminded the world this week, with the two largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, China and the United States, uncommitted to Kyoto, why should Canada be?

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