Canada seems to be enjoying its status as the pariah of the Durban climate change talks, reportedly registering a louder cheer in its parliament each time it is awarded a "fossil of the day” award by environmental NGOs.
Canada has been targeted, not just because it has refused – like Japan and Russia – to sign up to an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, but because it has also threatened to walk away from Kyoto before its expiry. This a key point – Canada, largely as a result of its controversial oil sands exploitation, is the only one of the developed nations bound by Kyoto to radically miss its targets.
Rather than achieving a cut of 6 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions, it is heading for an increase of one third. Bloomberg has estimated the extra 890 million tonnes of CO2e means it is facing a bill of around $6.7 billion – even at the current rock bottom international carbon prices. The bill would have been double at prices prevailing earlier this year, but if it leaves Kyoto before its expiry, Canada may reason that it can simply tear up the contract.
The hard-line approach of Canada and the US is ostensibly designed to help force big-emitting developing countries, such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa, to commit to a future binding treaty, and to make "comparable” reductions. But it is not entirely clear that Canada and the US are prepared for what may happen if the so-called "BRIC” nations actually make that commitment.