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Kyoto squeaks through with compromise (September 01, 2001)

BONN, Germany - After a 180-degree turn at the negotiating table, the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been ratified by 177 countries, the U.S. is the lone holdout.Just as the acc...


UNSINKABLE: Carbon sinks, like forests, made the difference.
UNSINKABLE: Carbon sinks, like forests, made the difference.

BONN, Germany – After a 180-degree turn at the negotiating table, the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been ratified by 177 countries, the U.S. is the lone holdout.

Just as the accord appeared to be dead, European Union (EU) delegates agreed to allow forested nations, such as Canada, credits to use against the reduction of the emissions. Forests and farmland act as carbon “sinks” reducing the effects of greenhouse gases through photosynthesis. Initially it was expected the EU would reject any such reworking of the protocol as it would be considered watering down the guidelines.

On average, developed countries will need to slash emissions levels by 5.2 per cent of those in 1990 by 2008-2012. However, thanks to the recognition of carbon sinks, some environmentalists estimate this will now be more like 1.8 per cent for Canada.

Despite this, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says oil and gas producers in his province will still be hit hard and it may cost the economy trillions of dollars in the long-run.

Environment Minister Lorne Taylor is appealing to the government to reconsider the agreement, which calls on Canada to reduce greenhouse emissions dramatically. He is concerned Canada may no longer be able to compete with oil producers such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – countries that aren’t part of the agreement.

“If it becomes a competitive disadvantage it will hurt oilsands. So what I’m saying is we have to be proactive as a government and industry,” Taylor says.

Klein has also voiced concern over the agreement. He worries the Alberta economy could be devastated by the agreement, which many observers thought was dead before its surprising revival this week.

“I’ve heard figures that are astounding,” Klein says of the cost to the industry. “I’ve heard figures in the billions of dollars. I’ve heard figures in the trillions of dollars … if we were forced to achieve those standards.”

This doom-and-gloom forecast is based on the fact the U.S. – Canada’s largest trading partner and producer of about 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases – didn’t sign the agreement.

Amid a chorus of boos the chief U.S. delegate, Paula Dobriansky, told the conference the Kyoto process is unsound, adding, “The Bush administration takes the issue of climate change very seriously.”

Some of the world’s leading climatologists, including most notably Canada’s Dr. Tim Ball, insist the idea of man-made global warming is only one of about 40 possible theories to explain the current shift in the world’s climate. The blame for this distortion of the truth, Ball insists, should fall to the mainstream media and special interest groups who have mangled the existing scientific and historical data clouding the issue. n


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