So Canada Left Kyoto: Why? and What’s Next?

March 21, 2012 // 10:00am12:00pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
Environmental Change and Security Program
Podcast (Audio-only): 
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Ruth Greenspan Bell, public policy scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Andrew Light, senior fellow, The Center for American Progress
David McLaughlin, president and CEO, National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
Peter Stoett, Fulbright Canada -Wilson Center Chair

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Canada’s decision to leave the Kyoto Protocol late in 2011 created some controversy in the environmental community. Many wondered why a generally progressive environmental country such as Canada would pull out of the landmark agreement. To discuss this topic, the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute invited David McLaughlin, the president and CEO of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, to discuss the reasons for Canada leaving Kyoto and what plans the government has in place to continue alternate climate change policies.

McLaughlin demonstrated that Canadian governments had suggested for some time that their Kyoto targets would be impossible to meet. With growth in Canada’s oil exports continuing to increase, McLaughlin argued that the writing was on the wall and Canada would have no choice but to withdraw or face high penalty costs for non-compliance. Going forward, McLaughlin stated that Canada must look at its targets on a sector by sector basis.

Peter Stoett, the Fulbright Canada – Wilson Center Chair, then discussed how the Canadian government might contribute to environmental finance in lieu of its Kyoto commitments. Stoett advocated for more investment in climate adaptation to help groups and individuals cope with climate change. Stoett accepts that there will be accounting difficulties with this type of program; however, he insisted that the costs of inaction will be far greater than any investment made today.

Finally, Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, discussed the various forms and directions that international environmental governance will take in the coming years. Light detailed some of the positive effects of Kyoto, including the clean development mechanisms that are still in place. While Light sees many positive developments with the Durban platform, he is worried that no international framework exists post-2020. Moving forward, Light sees the Green Climate Fund finance mechanism as the optimal option in reducing emissions.

After the panelists gave their comments, Ruth Greenspan Bell, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center, asked what the opening of the Arctic means for Canadian climate issues. McLaughlin responded that the government is differentiating between Kyoto-like investment and the adaption costs that Stoett discussed. When asked about Canada’s current plans, Light went further to applaud Canada for its recent focus on short-term pollutants. He also used Norway as an example of a country that has a small population but is a large fuel producer, which has doubled down on climate finance. Both Stoett and Light were encouraged by provincial action on climate finance in Alberta, a key carbon producer taking responsibility for its emissions.

This program was produced in partnership with the Embassy of Canada.

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
Event Speakers List: 
  • President and CEO National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
  • Senior Fellow The Center for American Progress
  • Ruth Greenspan Bell // Public Policy Fellow
    Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute and Research Associate, Columbia University Business School’s Center for Decision Sciences
  • Peter Stoett // Fulbright Canada -Wilson Center Chair
    Professor and Chair, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
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Event Resources: 

The Center for American Progress published The U.S. Role in International Climate Finance: A blueprint for Near-Term Leadership on December 6, 2010 by Andrew Stevenson, Nigel Purvis, Claire O'Connor, and Andrew Light. The report argues that the United States must find the political will to lead on international climate finance, which is possible despite the current economic and political condition.

In the Foreign Affairs article "How Much Did the Climate Talks in Durban Accomplish?" published on December 13, 2011, the authors, Ruth Greenspan Bell and Barry Blechman note that humanity demands that everyone be more candid about what it will take to actually reduce greenhouse gases.  

Ruth Greenspan Bell, Barry Blechman, and Micah Ziegler note the need for creative solutions to control greenhouse gas emissions in the Foreign Affairs article "Beyond the Durban Climate Talks" published on October 30, 2011.

As discussed by David McLaughlin at time cue 6:25, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is the only national public policy body mandated to study environment and the economy.

The Global Environment Facility unites 182 member governments in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector to address global environmental issues.

More information on the Winnipeg Consensus, the Banff Dialogue, and the Canadian Clear Energy Strategy can be found here.

News releases and conference documents for the Canadian Energy Strategy can be found on the Government of Alberta's website here.

The Center for Clean Air Policy's mission is to significantly advance cost-effective and pragmatic air quality and climate policy through analysis, dialogue, and education to read a broad range of policy-makers and stakeholders worldwide.

Who's On Board With The Copenhagan Accord? tracks how countries are engaging with the Copenhagan Accord and associated emissions reduction commitments as discussed by Dr. Andrew Light at time cue 54:00.


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