Canada Leaves the Kyoto Protocol?

December 13, 2011


Today Canada was the first to leave the Kyoto Protocol.  The Kyoto Protocol was discussed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 and officially brought into force in early 2005.  The Kyoto Protocol came to be in order to regulate each nation’s greenhouse gas emissions at the Framework Convention for Climate Change.  It sets a maximum limit for greenhouse gases to 37 industrialized nations and the European nations.

The nation of Canada backed out of the agreement for a good reason: if they were to remain a part of the contract they would be spending about $14 billion to the other countries.  If they wanted to somehow meet their level they would have to take almost every vehicle off the roads according to the environment minister Peter Kent.  While reading through, this article immediately reminded me of Hobbes Leviathan and his discussion of the covenant and the contract.

Hobbes discussed in Leviathan Chapter 13 about the ideas of a covenant and contract.  A contract is defined as, “the mutual transferring of right,” while he defines a covenant as, “Again, one of the contractors, may deliver the thing contracted for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after, and in the mean time be trusted.”  These are definitions given by Hobbes and they are basically the same for how a dictionary would define the terms.  Although many nations signed the Kyoto Protocol, Canada also signed it, so why should they be allowed to just relinquish all the responsibilities that came with signing it?  The Kyoto Protocol will be extended in 2015 and with this agreement comes  legally binding consequences.  Is the current Kyoto Protocol a covenant and the extended Protocol a contract?

Hobbes also discussed in Leviathan Chapter 13  the Laws of Nature. The second and third Laws of Nature both dealt with the ideas of covenants.  The second law of nature states that covenants are needed for peace and the third law of nature states that you should perform covenants made.  The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement among the 191 different nations that signed it, but they should have performed the covenant made between the nations.  It is the first of any of the countries to quit the pact, and it is possible that many more will do so.  In order to keep the world green and emitting a smaller amount of carbon, the Kyoto Protocol must stay intact.  Now that Canada has left the pact and is not performing the pact, what is keeping the peace?




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2 Comments on “Canada Leaves the Kyoto Protocol?”

  1. verlong Says:

    I don’t know if I completely understand everything in the post, but I think I do. I learned about this in my International Studies class. In fact, I studied yesterday for my final and talked about this exact issue. Canada currently has low CO2 emissions, but they are high per capita. Maybe for their own good they are pulling out of the contract to allow themselves to be able to spend more money on their own programs? Because they have high emissions per capita, it is important for them to try to improve their lifestyles as best as they can. I think it is unfortunate that they pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, and think that that could possibly lead to its collapse. If that is the case, something new should be drafted up that does not cause problems like what forced Canada to lave. I’m not sure if I totally understand this though, so I may be looking at the situation in an incorrect way. It is just important that all countries and all citizens around the world work as hard as they can to save the environment/earth/people/etc. If not being a part of a protocol is what’s going to help, fine. But there still must be massive efforts. We can’t continue living how we are today. Something bad will happen if we do.

  2. patricksylau Says:

    First of all, let me start by saying that while Canada should not have withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, as it set a bad precedent for other countries, I don’t think the actual effects are that significant, if there are any effects at all. The Kyoto Protocol was never particularly successful to begin with. Kyoto failed for several reasons. First and foremost, the United States failed to ratify it. Until 2006, the US was the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Secondly, there were no legally binding limitations on non-Annex I (developing) countries like China and India. As a result, China was not required to take any actions as it’s emissions doubled within the last 10 years. As China and the US comprised of around 50% of total emissions, these two failures effective rendered the protocol useless. Even if other countries met their requirements, the growth of China and the US would have countered that.

    At the same time, while the Kyoto Protocol was a legally binding agreement between developed countries, very few of them actually sought to complete their agreements as it was very hard to enforce. The protocol acted far more like a voluntary agreement as opposed to a legally binding “contract” as proposed by Hobbes.

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