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Is Canada becoming a climate change renegade?

Canada on Monday became the first country to announce that it would withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change. Did the promise of riches from the country's vast tar sands reserves play a role?

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Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent's statement, shown here on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday, announced that Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

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Canada on Monday became the first country to announce it would withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change, dealing a symbolic blow to the already troubled global treaty.

Environment Minister Peter Kent broke the news on his return from talks in Durban, where countries agreed to extend Kyoto for five years and hammer out a new deal forcing all big polluters for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada, a major energy producer which critics complain is becoming a climate renegade, has long complained Kyoto is unworkable precisely because it excludes so many significant emitters.

"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.

The right-of-center Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has close ties to the energy sector, says Canada would be subject to penalties equivalent to C$14 billion ($13.6 billion) under the terms of the treaty for not cutting emissions by the required amount by 2012.

"To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be the equivalent of either removing every car truck, all-terrain vehicle, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle off every kind of Canadian road," said Kent.

Environmentalists quickly blasted Kent for his comments.

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