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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will pull out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent said on Monday, dealing a symbolic blow to the troubled global treaty.
Canada will become the first country to formally withdraw from Kyoto, which it says is badly flawed because it does not cover all major emitters of greenhouse gasses, notably the United States and China.
The news came as little surprise, especially since Kent said last month that "Kyoto is the past." The right-of-center Conservatives took power in 2006 and made it clear they would not stick to Canada's Kyoto commitments.
"As we've said, Kyoto for Canada is in the past ... We are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto," Kent told reporters after returning from talks in Durban, South Africa, on extending the protocol.
He gave no details on when exactly Ottawa would pull out, but said Canada would be subject to enormous financial penalties under the terms of the treaty unless it withdrew.
The announcement will do little to help Canada's growing reputation as an international renegade on the climate. Green groups awarded the country their Fossil of the Year award for its performance in Durban.
Ottawa says 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.
Canada's former Liberal government signed on to Kyoto, which obliged the country to cut emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. By 2009 emissions were 17 percent above the 1990 levels.
Kent says the Liberals should not have signed up to a treaty they had no intention of respecting.
Environmentalists quickly blasted Kent for his comments.
"Mr. Kent does not understand what he is sentencing our children to. Catastrophic climate change will cost them far more," said John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club Canada.
Reporting by Randall Palmer, writing by David Ljunggren; editing by Christopher Wilson