Canada still has a legal obligation under United Nations rules to cut its emissions despite the country's pullout from the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. climate chief said on Tuesday. Christiana Figueres also said the timing of Canada's move, a day after a deal to extend the protocol was clinched at a U.N. summit in South Africa, was regrettable and surprising.
(Reuters) - Canada still has a legal obligation under United Nations rules to cut its emissions despite the country's pullout from the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. climate chief said on Tuesday.
Christiana Figueres also said the timing of Canada's move, a day after a deal to extend the protocol was clinched at a U.N. summit in South Africa, was regrettable and surprising.
Canada on Monday withdraw from Kyoto, dealing a symbolic blow to the treaty, with environment minister Peter Kent breaking the news just after his return from talks in Durban.
"Whether or not Canada is a party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the (U.N. framework on climate change) convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort," Figueres said.
Canada, a major energy producer which critics say is becoming a climate renegade, has long complained Kyoto is unworkable because it excludes so many significant emitters.
Industrialized countries whose emissions have risen significantly since 1990, like Canada, remain in a weaker position to call on developing countries to limit their emissions, Figueres said.
"I regret that Canada has announced it will withdraw and am surprised over its timing," Figueres said in a statement.
China and Japan said on Tuesday that Canada's decision was regrettable and called on it to continue to abide by its commitments on climate change.
Closer to home, reactions were divided. Mexican Environment Minister Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada asked Kent to reconsider his decision, saying the withdrawal could create "despair" among countries.
"What the world needs now is to work on a system of global cooperation to meet the objectives that give a message of hope to humanity, especially those who are currently suffering the impacts of climate change," he said.
Todd Stern, the U.S. special climate envoy, said Canada's decision should have little impact on negotiations on a future pact that would include binding cuts on developed and developing countries.
"I don't think it's going to have a big impact on the shape of a new regime and the nature of the new negotiations," Stern told reporters on Tuesday.
Image shows Canadian Environment Minister, Peter Kent. Image credit: Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty Images