Promises are sometimes hard to keep. We make them with good intentions but sometimes we're just not able to follow through. But promises are easy to make if we know we can just back out of them and avoid the consequences of doing so.
Only a couple of weeks ago I talked about how almost everyone has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Today the map on that blog has become a lot less green. Last night Canada announced it would be withdrawing from the legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions and meet targets set for 2012. You'd think a legally binding agreement would have some penalty for withdrawing but apparently not. Canada's annual emissions have risen by about a third since 1990 and didn't look likely to fall sharply before the deadline in 2012. There are penalties for not meeting the targets and by pulling out of the agreement Canada avoids this. It also allows them to continue to protect their valuable oil industry which they hope will boost their economy over the next few decades.
Canada's withdrawal has hit the headlines here, here and here but will probably fall into the background in the next few days. What won't go away, and what Canada can't avoid by abandoning its Kyoto promises, is that without a global reduction in carbon emissions and a lifestyle/mindset change for many developed countries climate change will increase to a point where famine, floods, droughts and mass migration will almost undoubtedly lead to wars and conflict; as well as the loss of thousands of precious species and resources.
It's terrible news that Canada has abandoned its promises but is it better to make a promise and back out, make a promise, try and fail or not make that promise at all?