Canada, a major energy producer, has become the first country to quit the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, saying the 1997 accord was an 'impediment' on cutting global carbon emissions with top emitters like the United States and China not covered by it.
"We are invoking Canada's legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto," environment minister Peter Kent said, two days after a marathon UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, at which 194 nations agreed to work on a new roadmap to curb global carbon emissions.
"As we said from the outset, the Kyoto Protocol did not represent the path forward for Canada," he said, stressing that Ottawa went to Durban "looking to reach an international climate change agreement that covers all major emitters."
Before this week, the Kyoto Protocol covered less than 30 per cent of global emissions. Now it covers less than 13 per cent -- and that number is only shrinking. The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world's two largest emitters -- the United States and China -- and therefore will not work, he said.
"It is now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward for a global solution to climate change; instead, it is an impediment," Kent said in a statement.
"This decision formalises what we have said since 2006 that we will not implement the Kyoto Protocol," he said, while pointing out that Canada produced just two per cent of global emissions.
"We remain committed to negotiating an international climate change agreement that works. That means getting a pact that involves all the major emitters," he said.
The Kyoto Protocol, initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, is the only legally-binding treaty aimed at fighting global warming. Kyoto's first phase was due to expire at the end of next year but has now been extended until 2017.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that are net exporters of energy. The immense Athabasca oil sands give Canada the world's second-largest proven oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia.