Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol marks a slap in the face for marathon efforts – led by Costa Rican Christiana Figueres – to bring all countries under one legal roof in the fight against climate change, but the impact may be limited.
Canada on Monday became the first country formally to quit the landmark 1997 treaty on global warming as it sought to avoid paying penalties of up to $13.6 billion for missing targets on cutting carbon emissions.
The decision by conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government came barely a day after U.N. talks in Durban, South Africa ended in a general agreement to put all nations eventually under one climate treaty.
Environmentalists say that binding action is vital to achieving the types of emission cuts that scientists warn are needed if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including growing natural disasters.
U.N. climate chief Figueres voiced regret over Canada’s announcement and surprise about its timing.
China, which is the world’s largest emitter and has only reluctantly agreed to Western-led efforts to seek a global pact on climate change, urged Canada to “face up to its responsibilities and obligations” and “honor its commitments.”