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Clarification on compliance and withdrawal

In yesterday’s post I had equated withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol with not agreeing to targets under a second commitment period. I’ve since gotten clarification on a couple of aspects of this.

First, there is a provision for formal withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, as Equiterre’s Steven Guilbeault clarified on Twitter, in Article 27:

1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Protocol has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Protocol by giving written notification to the Depositary.
2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal, or on such later date as may be specified in the notification of withdrawal.
3. Any Party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Protocol.

Here, the convention is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which defines all of the annual regulatory emissions filing requirements.  So, there clearly is an option for Canada to formally withdraw.

Why would Canada do this?  Well, as this Canadian Press article points out, the key reason is likely to avoid an explicit finding of non-compliance – the analog which immediately jumps to mind is a student dropping a course they are likely to fail.  The compliance determination for Kyoto takes place after 2012, as described in the Federal Government’s initial filing under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act:

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol begins January 1, 2008, and ends December 31, 2012. Kyoto Protocol Annex B Parties are required to submit their annual greenhouse gas emissions data in the form of a national inventory report, the first of which will be due on April 15, 2010, with the final report for 2012 due on April 15, 2014. The degree to which a ratifying Party has met its emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol will be assessed after its final report has been filed in 2014.

An Expert Review Team will examine and record each country’s total emissions for the commitment period (2008-2012), along with final accounting quantities for land use, land-use change and forestry activities. Once the expert review process has been completed for all Parties, a 100-day “additional period for fulfillment of commitments” will begin. This period is intended to provide Parties with the opportunity to undertake and finalize the transactions necessary to achieve compliance with Article 3, paragraph 1, of the Kyoto Protocol. The specific date when the 100-day period begins will be determined by the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol prior to 2014.

So, if the Government is not party to the Protocol by the time it expires at the end of 2012, this compliance review would not occur, and so Canada would not be in non-compliance with Kyoto.  Even if Canada does not withdraw formally from Kyoto, we would not technically be found to be in non-compliance until at least the year 2014. That’s a lot of negatives, but I hope you get the point.


What would happen if Canada were found to be in non-compliance with Kyoto?  This document, provided to me by Craig McInnes at the Vancouver Sun, outlines the implications as follows:

13) Non-compliance with emissions targets is not an issue that can come before the enforcement branch until after the end of the commitment period in 2012.

a.     A country in non-compliance with its 2012 target has 100 days after the expert review of its final emissions inventory to make up any shortfall (i.e., to buy credits).
b.     If such a country still misses its target, it must make up the difference, plus 30%, in the second commitment period after 2012. It is also suspended from selling emissions credits in the emissions trading mechanism and within 3 months, it must submit a plan on the action it will take to meet second commitment period target.

14) There are no financial penalties under the Kyoto Protocol, nor is there any consequence which     involves loss of credits (although there is a loss of access to the carbon market).

So, Canada would face a requirement to reduce emissions further below its second commitment period targets, which haven’t been established and to which we are unlikely to commit.


20 responses to “Clarification on compliance and withdrawal”

  1. Why the Harper government’s decision on Kyoto is both correct and not surprising

    […] this was synonymous with not agreeing to a second commitment period target, but it’s not. See here.). The structure of the Kyoto Protocol, in particular the calculation of responsibilities with […]

  2. Milan Ilnyckyj

    Regardless of the specific way in which Canada chooses to walk away from its Kyoto commitment, the message the rest of the world should take from that decision is the same: Canada cares more about the short-term profitability of the oil and gas sector than it does about the survival of the human race and the habitability of the planet.

    That is a selfish position and one that Canada deserves to be embarrassed about and punished for by countries that are behaving more responsibly.

  3. Deep Climate

    This appears to imply that the only way to withdraw from Kyoto is to withdraw from the UNFCCC altogether. To use your analogy, that would be more like withdrawing from university to avoid failing a single course.

    Strained analogies aside, withdrawing from the UNFCCC would raise a whole host of other questions. Would Canada still participate in the IPCC? How about other UNFCCC initiatives like the developing country adapatation fund?

    It might just be better to refuse to be part of Kyoto Second Commitment – which probably won’t happen anyway, and take the various raps on the knuckles if and when they happen.

    I imagine the Harper government will keep its options open as long as possible. Perhaps they can even find enough like-minded governments to act together to make the UNFCCC fall apart.

  4. How Cool Will Canada Be If We Drop Kyoto? | Sustainability in the Kootenays

    […] to meet second commitment period target. Informal information note by the secretariat, provided to Andrew Leach by Craig McInnes at the Vancouver Sun. […]

  5. Deep Climate

    Of course, the Copenhagen Accord is also part of the UNFCCC. So I guess Canada would drop that too.

    Dropping out of the UNFCCC looks more and more like a non-starter, doesn’t it?

  6. Deep Climate

    Sorry, yes you’re right. I thought you were highlighting clause 3, but Canada could withdraw from Kyoto under clause 1, of course.

    However, I do think the Harper’s government support for the UNFCCC is perfunctory at best. Before the 2008 U.S. election, Canada was touting alternative organizations (e.g. the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development, remember that?). If the Republicans win back the White House in 2012, I’d say the UNFCCC would be in big trouble and any progress toward a significant global agreement would stall for the foreseeable future. And that would suit Harper just fine.

    But for now, back to Kyoto withdrawal …

  7. Deep Climate


    You’re missing the big picture here. The generally accepted global target for 2050 is atmospheric 450 ppm CO2eq, which Canada has agreed to in principle in the Copenhagen Accord.

    Achieving that will require at least 50% reduction in global emissions, and about 80% reductions for the developed countries with the highest per capita carbon footprint (including the U.S. and Canada). See for example the 2010 IEA “blue” scenario.

    It’s hard to see how massive expansion of the oil sands is compatible with this global scenario, both in terms of energy mix in North America, or Canada achieving its fair share of emission reductions.

    Oil sands expansion (and somewhat slower decarbonization of electricity) is compatible however with the IEA “New policies scenario” – not “business as usual”, but still far short of the generally accepted science-based target. That scenario envisages atmospheric levels of over 650 ppm CO2eq by 2050, i.e. well above double pre-industrial levels.

  8. Deep Climate

    Hi Andrew,

    A few quick responses to your comment follow:

    “You are absolutely correct to say that the IEA’s 450ppm scenario, applied via a global agreement with policies to match is unlikely to be consistent with rapid expansion of the oilsands.”

    *Any* plausible 450ppm scenario is “unlikely to be consistent with rapid expansion of the oilsands”. I take it you agree with this more general statement, but to my knowledge no one in the Harper government or Canadian oil industry has ever acknowledged this simple fact.

    “You are incorrect to assume that a ban or a slowdown in oilsands, in the absence of such a broad policy framework, produces the same outcome. ”

    I have not made such a statement. I’m merely pointing out a huge disconnect in current government policy, which ostensibly endorses the 450ppm target (via the Copenhagen accord, for example), while encouraging and promoting rapid expansion of the oil sands. This flagrant contradiction can be seen in Peter Kent’s recent statement to CBC Radio, in defence of planned oil sands expansion, that “fossil fuels will predominate for many decades to come”.

    The rest of your comment seems to imply that a “fair” allocation of emission reduction targets among developed countries should be based on a uniform marginal cost per tonne of CO2 reduction. For various reasons, I find this argument less than compelling. I’ll be happy to explore this further another time, but perhaps I’ve veered far enough off topic for now.

    But I look forward to your promised post on what future global carbon pricing policy to achieve 450 ppm should look like, and I hope you will tie it to the resulting (implicit or explicit) reduction targets for Canada and major countries/world regions for 2050.

    Of course, all this is probably a moot point anyway – I don’t think there will be sufficient political consensus for an effective global agreement to achieve 450 ppm, in any case.

  9. winespius

    Since we are dropping out of Kyoto tell me why the government sent $400 million last year and committed an extra $600 million next year to third world climate causes…!

  10. Globe Article and Reader Comments

    […] Article and Reader CommentsBy Andrew on December 10, 2011 Last week, I summarized my two (#1 and #2) on Kyoto compliance and withdrawal into a shorter piece on the Globe and Mail’s Economy […]

  11. Rundle in NYC

    They didn’t have to withdraw on December 12, 2011.

    December 12, 2011 has no significance under Kyoto timelines.

    The only significance of December 12 is that its 24 hours after the Kyoto Protocol was resuscitated in Durban.

    Like an old dog that was given another day to live, Alberta and the Conservatives felt it needed to kick the poor pooch as it was convalescing in the Emergency Room.

    If you want to talk about abuse, abusing that dog Kyoto has been the driver behind the rush to withdraw — it has had nothing to do with the timelines under the Treaty itself.

  12. Why Canada Decides to Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol | Ecocentric |

    […] of noncompliance, which as the University of Alberta environment professor and blogger Andrew Leach points out, is a bit like a student who’s failing a course dropping it before actually pulling an F. […]

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