Why did Canada withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol? A case study

FNI Report 1/2015. Lysaker, FNI, 2015, 88 p.

In this report, I consider the following research question: What explains Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol? Canada’s withdrawal came as a surprise to many, for two reasons: Firstly, Canada has traditionally been viewed as a global leader in international climate cooperation. Secondly, the announcement of the withdrawal in December 2011 meant that it would take effect in December 2012, only two weeks before Kyoto’s first commitment period ended. In this qualitative case study I seek answers to my research question at three levels – the international, the national and the sub-national. Each level draws on a different theoretical framework and points to different explanatory factors. I begin by applying the unitary actor model, then move to the theory of two-level games, and finally analyze the sub-national level through a combination of two-level games and a theory of provincial influence on Canadian federal climate policy. I find that a combination of drastically increasing compliance costs, a change in government, and sharp resistance from oil-abundant provinces against the implementation of Kyoto, were the main causes of the withdrawal.