Like a criminal who beats the rap because police lost a piece of evidence, the Canadian government is trying to dodge responsibility for failing to meet its Kyoto commitments by clinging to a technicality.
Defending itself against Federal Court suit brought by Friends of the Earth, the Canadian government argued this week that Kyoto targets “are not legally binding as they have not been adopted as an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol by agreement of all Parties.” A rough translation might be: George Bush isn't playing fair; why should we?
The answer, to that hypothetical question at least, is that Canada promised that it would meet its Kyoto obligations. The Canadian Parliament even passed a Private Member's Bill last year that said it would be illegal under Canadian law to ignore Kyoto targets.
But the current government offered a dismissed sniff to that bill in court this week, announcing that the law had been “nullified” when the House of Commons later approved a Throne Speech that said Canada can't meet its Kyoto targets. This is logically problematic. Acknowledging a statement of fact - “Bill stole a package of sweets” - does not make the acknowledged truth legal.
And in this instance, it is not quite a fact that Canada cannot meet its Kyoto obligations. The country could still purchase carbon credits from other countries. Or Canada could commit itself to meeting more stringent emission cuts in the next round of the Kyoto treaty.
No, the Candian government was really saying: Canada WON'T meet its obligations - and now it's hired some smart lawyers to try to make that all seem okay.
Well, the Federal Court has yet to comment on the merit of the federal government excuses. But even it the court accepts the legal technicality, the damage will remain to Canada's international reputation - and to its future credibility as a potential partner in ANY negotiation.