|The emissions protocol, initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is aimed at fighting global warming [Reuters]
Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the country's minister of the environment has said, making it the first nation to pull out of the global treaty.
The protocol "does not represent a way forward for Canada" and would have forced it to take "radical and irresponsible choices", Peter Kent said in Toronto on Monday.
He added that it was a mistake for Canada to have signed up for Kyoto: "As we've said, Kyoto for Canada is in the past ... We are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto."
"The Kyoto protocol does not cover the world's two largest emitters, China and the US, and therefore cannot work," he said.
China, which argues that it should be exempt from emissions reduction targets because it is a developing nation, said Canada's decision was "regrettable" and went against international efforts to tackle climate change.
"We hope Canada will face up to its responsibilities and obligations, honour its commitments and actively participate in relevant international co-operation against climate change," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.
Megan Leslie, environment spokesperson for Canada's opposition New Democratic Party said the government was abdicating its international responsibilities.
"We all knew the rumours. We all heard the reports that Canada planned to withdraw from Kyoto, and so today we actually saw it laid out before us," she said.
'Kyoto is the past'
The move does not come as a surprise, especially since Kent said last month that "Kyoto is the past".
He said the cost of meeting Canada's obligations under Kyoto would cost $13.6bn.
"That's $1,600 from every Canadian family; that's the Kyoto cost to Canadians. That was the legacy of an incompetent liberal government," he said.
The right-of-centre Conservatives took power in 2006 and made clear they would not stick to Canada's Kyoto commitments.
Canada's former Liberal government signed up to Kyoto, which obliged the country to cut emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. By 2009, emissions were 17 per cent above the 1990 levels.
Canada's delegation said little during recent climate talks in South Africa where countries agreed to extend the Kyoto protocol and hammer out a new deal to force big polluters to cut greenhouse emissions.
Canada has said it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations,
including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets.
The decision to quit will not help the international reputation of the North American country, a major energy producer which critics say is becoming a climate renegade.