Textes d'opinion

Unanswered questions about Kyoto


Version française de la lettre ouverte aussi disponible: «Kyoto: des questions sans réponse».

An Open Letter to the Hon. Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, Nov. 22, 2005.

Dear Minister Dion,

Last year at this time I wrote to you asking some fundamental questions about your promotion of the Kyoto Protocol in Canada. I have yet to receive a response. With the treaty now in force legally and your upcoming chairmanship of the UN climate conference in Montreal, I believe taxpayers deserve answers.

I am not a specialist of this very complex issue but I cannot fail to notice that there seem to be major inconsistencies in Canada’s climate change plans. This is why I am asking some more questions, which I hope you will take some time to answer. If neither you, nor the hundreds of policy analysts, economists and scientists in your ministry, can provide satisfactory responses, then I suggest that steps be taken to better understand the issue and explain it to the public before further implementing Kyoto.

  • 1. Why does the Government of Canada continue to promote the «hockey stick» temperature curve on its web page, even sending it to school children and teachers on large wall posters, when the graph is now well known to be based on seriously flawed research? The «hockey stick» is one of the most prominent scientific pillars of Kyoto. Yet that pillar is now gone and even scientists who support the protocol are backing away from using it. Shouldn’t government policy be reviewed accordingly?
  • 2. On February 15, 2005 in the House of Commons, you said, «We will decrease megatonnes of CO2 and we will make megatonnes of money with it.» You have made similar boasts elsewhere. Do you truly believe there are such grand economic opportunities and benefits associated with reducing emissions? Why then have so many reports from inside and outside government warned that implementing Kyoto would, in fact, cost billions of dollars? And if emission reductions are so profitable, why are regulations even needed to force businesses to undertake them?
  • 3. For all the global costs of implementing Kyoto, studies have indicated that it would make an undetectably small change in total greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, and no effective difference to the world’s climate. Instead we are told that Kyoto only represents the first step on a long journey «to control global warming». Indeed, you said yourself in your presentation to the April 4, 2005 Seminar of the Institut de l’énergie et de l’environment de la Francophonie in Montreal: «Kyoto is the first step on a long road, and efforts will need to be intensified over the next few decades.» How many more Kyotos do you intend to commit to? Should we expect subsequent Kyoto-style treaties to cost progressively more and more, as the low-cost compliance strategies get used up earliest? If Canada and the other signatories have failed so utterly to comply with the first one, what sense is there in pursuing the same strategy over and over?
  • 4. I understand that a major driving factor behind the rise in a country’s emissions is its population growth. Yet national Kyoto targets are fixed at an absolute level, independent of growth rate. This means that Canada, experiencing population growth due to high levels of immigration, will have to decrease emissions per capita, while countries with shrinking populations, such as some in Europe, will be able to increase their per capita emissions. I am at a loss to understand why the Government of Canada agreed to such a lopsided formula. With reference to the government’s recent announcement of its intention to substantially increase immigration, have you accounted for the effects of higher population growth on future emissions, and did you take into consideration the increased costs of reaching the Kyoto targets? Please share with us the studies you conducted on this matter.

Viewing Canada’s climate change file with the eyes of a layperson I have always found it largely incomprehensible. Answers to the above questions would certainly help resolve what you must realize is a growing unease in the public about the enormous task ahead of us.

Michel Kelly-Gagnon est président de l’Institut économique de Montréal.

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