Analysis: Canada's Kyoto withdrawal began when Bush bolted

Tue Dec 13, 2011 3:00pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's widely criticized withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol ends a decade-long saga that began in earnest when former President George W. Bush walked away from the global climate change treaty in 2001.

The close links between the two economies, and the fact the United States has a population almost 10 times larger than that of Canada, meant that Ottawa ultimately felt it had to follow Washington's lead and ignore the diplomatic fallout.

"That's the reality. If the Americans move we'll move in lock-step with them because of the integrated nature of the economies," said Fen Hampson, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Canada is the largest supplier of oil and gas to the United States and sends 75 percent of its exports south each month. Even though the right-of-center ruling Conservatives are closer ideologically to the Republicans than the Democrats, they rarely differ with the Americans on major economic issues.

Echoing complaints by Washington, Canada's Conservative government - a firm backer of the energy industry - insists that Kyoto is no use in the battle against global warming because it does not cover major emitters such as China and India.

"There's not going to be traction on climate change until the Chinese and the Americans and the Indians decide that they really want to do something," Hampson told Reuters.

"The (Canadian) government saw this dead cow wasn't moving so they pulled the plug on it," he said.

Canada, which made the announcement immediately after two weeks of talks that extended Kyoto, says it is ready to negotiate a new deal covering all major polluters. Whether other nations are interested in talking to Canada is another matter.   Continued...

<p>A Greenpeace activist dressed in a polar bear costume demonstrates in front of Parliament Hill to call on Canada's minority Conservative government to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, in Ottawa January 29, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>