Canada court finds decision to withdraw from Kyoto Protocol legal

[JURIST] The Canadian Federal Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; summary, PDF] Tuesday that the Canadian government's decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive] was legal. Canadian Minister of the Environment Peter Kent [official profile] announced that Canada would withdraw [JURIST report] from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in December. Canada was the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. The court held that the cabinet did not have to seek approval from Parliament [official website] before withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol due to its royal prerogative [CBC report] and that the withdrawal did not violate the separation of powers. The court further stated that it is within Parliament's power to limit or abolish the royal prerogative powers, but it must do so explicitly. Because Parliament failed to limit the cabinet's royal prerogative powers when implementing the Kyoto Protocol, the cabinet was not required to consult with Parliament before withdrawing.

Kent's announcement in December came just one day after the conclusion of the Durban UN Climate Change Conference [official website] in South Africa. Delegates from 194 countries agreed to negotiate global initiatives [JURIST report] that would eventually force countries to take legally-binding action in order to slow the pace of climate change. After two weeks of debate, the delegates agreed on four major proposals. First, the countries decided to extend the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase of emissions cuts runs from 2008 to the end of 2012. The second commitment to Kyoto will extend from the beginning of 2012 until the end of 2017. Second, in light of a failure to create a new, internationally-binding treaty at a climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the delegates agreed to form a process known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action [proposal text, PDF] which entails negotiations to form a legally-binding climate change agreement by 2015 to be enacted by 2020. Third, although poor nations have consistently needed help to finance the adaptations to climate change, the debt crisis has forced developed nations to also limit their contributions to the initiative. The delegates broke ground in agreeing to design a Green Climate Fund [proposal text, PDF] to pool up to $100 billion a year by 2020 for poor countries, but they did not establish how they would reach this number, nor who would contribute to it. Finally, the delegates agreed that implementing a new internationally-binding instrument would raise ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As such, they decided to launch a work plan to close the "ambition gap" between countries' current emissions reduction pledges for 2020 and the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. Other proposals that were raised but not agreed upon include mechanisms for national adaptation plans [proposal text] and an extension of emissions cut pledges made in Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancun in 2010.

 

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