Shifting political will

18th January 2012


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Reporting

Author

IEMA

Following Canda's withdrawl from the Kyoto Protocol, Paul Suff wonders whether environmental considerations will ever be able to trump political motivations

Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, but the US Senate refused to ratify it, leaving the world’s largest (at the time) emitter of greenhouse gases an outsider. Clinton’s successor, George Bush, later pulled the US out of the Kyoto accord as one of the first acts of his presidency, dismissing the protocol as too costly.

Canada officially endorsed the treaty in 2002 under the then prime minister Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government, but in December 2011 it became the first developed country signatory to withdraw from the accord, which expires next year.

Canada’s current Conservative government, having declared when taking office that it did not intend to meet the country’s existing commitments under the treaty, announced it had no choice but to withdraw given the economic situation, claiming the decision would save an estimated £8.6 billion in penalties.

What this overview of the North American political response to tackling climate change reveals is that changes in government can often totally alter a country’s stance, making a global consensus difficult to achieve and even harder to implement.

So, despite the unexpected “success” of the Durban climate change talks in agreeing a roadmap to developing a new global treaty that would embrace all parties, including China, India and the US, and would become operational as soon as possible (by 2020), the activity and inactivity of North American politicians over the past 15 years should act as a reminder that the political will for change can quickly vanish.

The Canadian government’s announcement that it was withdrawing from Kyoto came just days after its negotiators in South Africa had signed up to developing a successor, and as its annual emissions reach levels 30% higher than they should be under the original protocol.

Of course, it may not be so easy to renege on a new deal that has “legal force” and includes all countries, but future prospective political leaders, mindful that some of their electorate may be unwilling to embrace the changes necessary to stem global temperature rise, will always demand an opt-out.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close