By Stu Salkeld
Recent talk by our diligent provincial government about climate change and how our diligent provincial government is working 24 hours a day to save us from ourselves reminds me of something I wrote a lot about early in my career: the Kyoto protocol.
The protocol was an agreement on paper by dozens of nations, which they were concerned about the environment, and the effects of human activity on the environment (mostly pollution). Generally, the protocol called for keeping nations greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels.
When the controversial document came to Parliament, Conservative Party MP Bob Mills set a House of Commons record for longest filibuster (Nov. 26, 2002, 11 hours), as he was dead set opposed to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol; Jean Chretien’s Liberal majority was guaranteed to pass the Kytoto protocol, and showed no interest in either the opinions of opposing politicians or the people who elected them, or the economic effect the Kyoto Protocol would have for the benefits it offered.
“The Benefits It Offered.” Therein lies the meat of the issue.
Mills, MP for not only Red Deer but also Rocky Mountain House, the community where I worked, was a retired schoolteacher who reveled in exposing posturing politicians and exposing hypocritical, corrupt and pointless exercises like the Kyoto Protocol.
Mills pointed out to me in numerous interviews that, though the Kyoto Protocol signatories swore to tackle the demon of climate change, some, if not all, of the largest polluters in the world were not involved in the protocol. The United States didn’t ratify the protocol and China apparently only signed the Kyoto Protocol on agreement that the communist nation wouldn’t have to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
Globally, China is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, if not the largest. In 2006, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China overtook the U.S. as the largest emitter in the world of CO2. If you pay attention to international news, you’ll be aware of how air pollution in China has become staggeringly bad. On Dec. 1, 2015 Global News ran a story about a Beijing artist who was able to “vacuum up” the Chinese capital city’s “air” and bake the air into a brick.
The Kyoto Protocol also included “flexibility mechanisms.” In essence, these mechanisms ensured that not all Kyoto partners were created equally. Some were allowed special treatment. India, for example, was given “non-binding” targets for the Kyoto Protocol. Meaning, India was allowed to continue polluting as it wished.
India’s contribution to polluting the global ecosystem is considerable. According to the report “Country Analysis Brief: India” written by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2011, India was the third largest emitter of CO2 in the world in 2009.
Then there are the crooked parts of the protocol. The agreement included a scheme called “carbon credit trading.” Nations with vast green space, such as Russia, that absorb much more CO2 than the country produces, are allowed to offset massive pollution created by other nations, for example China and India. Of course, payment in hard currency would be included, and nations with vast green space, like Russia, wouldn’t really have to do a damn thing except cash cheques. Pretty good scam, huh? The complexities of the Kyoto Protocol can’t be explained in a space this limited, but I suspect you’re beginning to see what this agreement offered.
Keeping foreign nations like China and India from polluting the atmosphere is impossible; they do as they wish. Many governments, including our provincial NDP, feel that reducing electricity use in North America is far more important than lobbying nations like China and India to cut down the amount of atmosphere bricks they’re creating.
It’s true, though, we can all help in the global battle against climate change. The average Albertan can do a lot to prevent pollution: at home, use energy efficient light bulbs, buy energy efficient appliances, ensure your home is properly insulated and don’t waste water. At work, try to cut the number of idle electrical devices sitting around and, if possible, use public transportation or carpooling. When buying a vehicle, try to buy the most fuel efficient one possible.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.