BEIJING Canada's failure to deny reports that it is about to ditch the Kyoto Protocol is "setting a bad example" to other developed nations as global climate change talks enter their third day, China's official news agency said on Wednesday.
Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said on Monday that Kyoto was "the past," but he would not confirm media reports that Ottawa was planning to formally withdraw from the treaty, one of the main topics of global climate talks now under way in Durban, South Africa.
Canada says it backs a new global deal to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but insists it has to cover all nations, including China and India, which are not bound by Kyoto's current targets.
The commentary published by Xinhua news agency accused Canada of undermining global efforts against climate change and damaging its own reputation in pursuit of short-term interests.
"While delegations from every country attend the Durban climate conference to discuss a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, one can imagine the damage done by this 'rumor'," Xinhua said.
"Some are angry and some are depressed, but whatever the expression made by each delegation, they are united in their criticism of Canada."
The commentary said Canada's failure to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets had encouraged it to write off the protocol and thereby "smash a pot to pieces just because it is cracked."
The Kyoto Protocol obliged signatory countries from the developed world to make mandatory cuts in their total greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, when the first commitment period ends.
Canada was obliged to slash CO2 by 6 percent compared to 1990, but by 2009, the total was still 17 percent higher.
Canada was also likely to be using the rumors to try to secure a favorable breakthrough during the Durban talks, Xinhua said, and "as soon as the negotiations do not meet its expectations, it will allow the rumors to become reality."
If Canada pulls out of Kyoto, it will join the United States on the sidelines of a treaty originally designed to force rich nations with far higher historical levels of greenhouse gas emissions to take on most of the burden when it comes to handling climate change.
Developing nations like China and India were not under any obligation to make binding CO2 cuts under the treaty, and also received funding for clean projects through Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism.
Russia and Japan have refused to support an extension of Kyoto beyond 2012, saying that the treaty is meaningless if the biggest emitters -- China and the United States -- do not sign up for binding cuts.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)