Canada's quit from Kyoto Protocol draws criticism

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Canada has become the first signatory to formally pull out of the Kyoto Protocol in an action that has provoked harsh criticism from around the world.

Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday the country has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, thereby saving about 14 billion U.S. dollars in penalties.

"Kyoto for Canada is in the past. As such, we are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw," Kent said, while blaming former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal government for signing the accord without taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The minister made the announcement about two hours after returning from the Durban talks, which produced a new emission cuts framework to include all major emitters in a single, legally-binding deal.

New Democratic Party Environment critic Megan Leslie, speaking on behalf of the official opposition in Parliament, condemned the decision.

"What this is really about is the fact that our government is abdicating its international obligations. It's like we're the kid who's failing the class so we have to drop it before that happens," she said.

The Council of Canadians, a progressive citizens' organization, also denounced the move.

"The Harper government has transformed Canada into a serial laggard on the most pressing issue of our times, addressing climate change, which is severely damaging our international reputation," said Maude Barlow, the council's national chairperson.

The international community also slammed Canadia's decision to quit the historic pact.

The French Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called Canada's move "bad news" for global efforts against climate change.

"Canada's announcement that it is withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is bad news for the fight against climate change," spokesman Bernard Valero said.

"It is out of the question to relax our efforts or to break the dynamic of the Durban agreement."

Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono expressed regret for Canada's decision and urged the country to stay with the pact. He said the Kyoto framework included "important elements" that could help fight climate change.

Tuvalu, a tiny South Pacific island nation that could be wiped off the map by rising sea levels, lashed out in even stronger terms.

"For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, its an act of sabotage on our future. Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act," Ian Fry, the country's negotiator, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

China's Foreign Ministry also voiced regret over the news and urged the country to implement commitments on emission cuts.

"Canada's withdrawal occurred as important progress has been made on the protocol's second commitment period at the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, which runs against the international efforts," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular press briefing.

Liu urged Canada to bear in mind its responsibility and obligations, implement its emission cuts commitments and engage in the international effort to cope with climate change in a proactive and constructive manner.

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, stipulates that developed countries should reduce their collective greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels during the first commitment period (2008-2012), primarily through meeting their national targets.

Canada ratified the accord in 1997 and agreed to cut emissions to 6 percent below the 1990 level by 2012 as part of the protocol.

In fact, Canada's emissions rose by 24 percent between 1990 and 2008, according to the Conference Board of Canada, as the government is reluctant to hurt its booming oil sands industry.

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