Environment Minister Peter Kent wouldn't confirm or deny Monday that Canada plans to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, as talks on the accord's future got underway in Durban, South Africa.
"I won't comment on a speculative report," Kent said in response to questions about a report that Canada will announce it is pulling out shortly before Christmas.
But South Africa's high commissioner to Canada said in an interview with CBC News that there has been speculation for weeks about the Conservative government's planned withdrawal and about it wanting other countries to follow suit.
"It's disturbing and very disapppointing that a country like Canada would pull out after having given leadership in this particular UN convention which is so important for the world," Mohau Pheko said.
"It will, of course undermine the process going into Durban because obviously they have not only just planned their own withdrawal, which we are speculating upon, but they have actively lobbied other countries to do the same.
"I think that this is part of what is disturbing as well. That while you hold your own position then withdraw and allow others to continue with the process. So it's a very disappointing position I think that Canada has taken and as I said not only for the world but for Canadians themselves," she added.
Pheko said reports about Canada withdrawing don't come as a surprise, given the government's approach to negotiations leading up to the Durban conference.
She also said it makes sense for Canada to rally support around its position of withdrawing from the Kytoto protocol, if that is what is announced in the coming weeks.
“There is speculation that Canada has been lobbying other countries too, of course you don't want to move on your own and be seen as a 'pariah' of the world on climate change, so obviously you may need a few friends to move along with you," she said.
Kent was asked several times earlier in the day at a news conference in Ottawa, and opposition parties also pressed him in question period Monday afternoon, to confirm the report about pulling out of Kyoto but he did not give a definitive answer.
Kent was making an announcement in Ottawa about continued funding for the Conservative government's clean air agenda – $600 million over the next five years.
The environment minister said that in Durban he will try to convince the other parties that signed the protocol that a new international agreement is needed, one that includes the world's major polluters. He leaves for the two-week conference later this week.
"We're going to Durban to work in common cause with the other parties to the convention to advance a new climate change agreement, binding eventually, which will engage all emitters in both the developed and the developing countries," Kent said.
He called the international agreement "one of the biggest blunders" the Liberal government ever made and said his government is committed to a "realistic" plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Kyoto is the past, Copenhagen and Cancun are the future,” Kent said, referring to the commitments made at climate change talks in those cities in recent years.
Negotiators and political leaders from 190 countries, including Canada, are participating in the conference, and are seeking new ways to cut carbon dioxide emissions and pollution and also trying to resolve differences between rich and poor countries on how to fight climate change.
The UN climate secretariat Christiana Figueres said future commitments by industrial countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions is "the defining issue of this conference." She is hoping for a decision at the meetings on extending emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto accord. The protocol called on nations to reduce carbon emissions five per cent below 1990 levels by the end of next year and some of the commitments are due to expire next year.
Canada won't confirm Kyoto withdrawal - Politics - CBC News