OTTAWA -- Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto accord on climate change, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Monday.
"The Kyoto Protocol does not represent the path forward for Canada," Kent told a news conference in the foyer of the House of Commons, after his return from an international climate-change summit in Durban, South Africa.
"It's now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward for a global solution to climate change. If anything, it's an impediment.
"We are invoking Canada's legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto."
The announcement marks the end of years of controversy -- as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government repeatedly made it clear it would not be tied to the international commitment made by the previous Liberal government.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and ratified by most major countries except the United States. It committed industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels and provided financial help to developing countries to accomplish the task.
Although Canada had ratified the accord, it was not on track to meet its targets. Harper's Conservative government has opposed an extension of the Kyoto accord to future international agreements, arguing that other large emitting countries in the developing world, such as China and India, should be required to meet targets.
Kent blamed the former Liberal government for being "incompetent" by signing the accord and failing to meet its targets. As a result, he said, the current Conservative government, which took office in 2006, now faces "radical and irresponsible" choices if it is to avoid the $14 billion in international penalties he said it must pay for failing to meet those targets as a signatory to the accord.
Kent said in order to comply with Kyoto, dramatic action would need to be taken to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
"To meet the target under 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads, or closing down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada."
But the minister was immediately blasted by opposition critics for abandoning attempts to find a solution to global warming, and for using scare tactics to explain his rationale.
NDP environment critic Megan Leslie accused Kent of "fearmongering" and of spreading misinformation. Leslie said Kent was not telling the truth when he warned of billions of dollars in international penalties.
"They are just trying to hide their failures here by constructing this scary story and then saying 'Hey it wasn't us, it was the Liberals.' "
Greenpeace Canada spokesman Mike Hudema said in a written statement that "this is a further signal that the Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people."
Over the weekend, the 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change finished a marathon session two days behind schedule in Durban, charting a course toward a new regime to be finalized by 2015 to prevent dangerous human interferene with the atmosphere.
The framework agreement salvaged the Kyoto Protocol, but it became clear it would not include Canada's participation.
Although countries agreed on terms to establish a new global fund to support efforts in developing countries to adapt to climate change and promote clean energy growth, Kent said Canada would not provide any new money for the fund until the recipients committed to targets and transparent reporting of their efforts.
-- Postmedia News