Up to us to make sure world leaders don't walk away from climate change commitments 

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There was a line-up at the recycling container Tuesday morning.

I couldn't help but smile at the irony of this after learning that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol this week. The announcement was made by our federal environment minister Peter Kent while attending the UN climate change summit, which was held over the past two weeks in Durban, South Africa.

It's true that you can't really equate recycling personally with our environment minister telling the world that Canada is no longer committed to reducing its CO2 emissions to below 1990 levels. These are targets, by the way, that Canada will never meet at the rate we are going, and if Mr. Kent is to be believed, just trying to will cost us $14 billion in penalties — though this total is vigorously disputed by many.

Kyoto required Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. But by 2009, Canada's emissions had risen to 17 per cent above 1990 levels, much of it due to expanded oilsands development in Alberta.

Walking away from Kyoto is seen by some as abdicating our responsibilities – like choosing to throw those plastic bottles into the garbage.

(And yes there is a whole argument about why recycling doesn't really work either but that is another whole column)

The point here though is that at some level everyone is going to have to do something if CO2 levels are to be controlled. Scientists have told the world repeatedly that if CO2 levels are not reversed by 2020 then the world's temperature rise cannot be held at 2C — a frightening thought for millions as that could mean the majority of countries are likely to see an increase in river and coastal flooding, putting 49 million more people in danger by 2100. (Climate: observations, projections and impacts report by the UK Met office, 2011. It should be pointed out that experts also suggest that a rise in temperature might actually make it easier to grow crops such as wheat in Canada.)

These climate summit talks continue to highlight the divide between the have and the have-not nations as well as those nations most affected by climate change, such as island states, and those nations responsible for it.

It can't be argued rationally anymore that China, India and Brazil, as well as a handful of other nations, should be left off the hook when it comes to setting and meeting CO2 targets because they are still developing nations. But after this latest round of talks these nations were given yet another ten-year exemption on targets.

And it is not just CO2 that is of concern either – there are a myriad of reasons why world leaders need to continue to talk seriously about what we are all doing to the planet.

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