OTTAWA Canada condemned on Monday a series of elaborate hoax emails and a fake website story that claimed the country would cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a much greater amount than previously announced.
Officials said they believed environmental activists were responsible for the hoax, which emerged as delegates from around the world negotiated in Copenhagen on a successor to the Kyoto climate change accord.
Canada is under heavy fire from green campaigners, who say Ottawa's pledge to cut emissions by 20 percent from 2006 levels by 2020 is grossly inadequate.
The initial email, purporting to come from the federal environment ministry, said Canada would set binding emissions reductions targets of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050.
It also announced Canada would give billions of dollars to African countries for emissions-reduction strategies and provided a link to a fake federal environment website.
A second email, also supposedly from the environment ministry, apologized for the hoax and linked to a fake Wall Street Journal story based on the first email as well as a fake United Nations site.
The office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not amused.
"Time would be better used by supporting Canada's efforts to reach an agreement instead of sending out hoax press releases," said chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas.
"More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks," he wrote in an email, accusing Canadian green campaigner Steven Guilbeault of being responsible.
Guilbeault told Reuters he had nothing to do with the hoax and demanded an apology from Soudas.
Green groups regularly bestow "fossil of the day" awards on Canada at international climate change meetings on the grounds that it is being obstructionist.
Canada's Conservative government walked away from the Kyoto climate change pact, saying it could harm the economy. Ottawa has so far given few details about its own plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Peter Galloway)