By Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn
OSLO/LONDON (Reuters) - Greece has been suspended from U.N. carbon trading in an unprecedented punishment for violating greenhouse gas reporting rules that underpin a fight against global warming, officials said on Tuesday.
A group of legal experts enforcing compliance with the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol also said it was opening proceedings against Canada for alleged violations of rules on accounting for heat-trapping gases.
"Greece is declared to be in non-compliance," the enforcement branch said in a statement distributed by the Bonn-based U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, the first such ruling since Kyoto entered into force in 2005.
Athens had failed to maintain a proper national system for recording greenhouse gas emissions, key to ensuring compliance with the Protocol seeking to slow temperature rises that could bring more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising seas.
"Greece is not eligible to participate in the (trading) mechanisms...of the protocol pending the resolution of the question of implementation," the enforcement branch said of a finding, formally confirmed last week.
Submission of new data by Greece had not entirely convinced the compliance experts, who were seeking extra opinions, said a U.N. official who declined to be named.
"This case shows that the compliance committee of the Kyoto Protocol is up and running properly," said John Hay, spokesman of the Climate Change Secretariat, of the Greek ruling.
The Kyoto Protocol imposes a cap on emissions of greenhouse gas by some 37 industrialized countries but allows them to meet their targets by paying for emissions cuts elsewhere, such as in the developing world or former east bloc nations.
The ruling means that Greece is barred from such offsetting except under one track of emissions trading with former communist countries. Greek companies would still be able to take part in a European Union market for carbon dioxide.
Greece's emissions were running some 26 percent above 1990 levels in 2006, slightly above Greece's Kyoto target of no more than 25 percent above 1990 levels between 2008-12. As a result it has little need to buy offsets.
The enforcement branch also said that Canada had failed to provide a proper registry for greenhouse gases and had missed a January 1, 2007 reporting deadline by more than two months.
The Canadian finding was preliminary and needed further research before any final rulings.
Both the Canadian and Greek cases were referred to the enforcement branch by international teams of experts organized by the Climate Change Secretariat.
Canada's emissions were 25.3 percent above 1990 levels in 2005, far above a Kyoto target of a 6 percent cut by 2008-12. Canada has said its target is unachievable, as it develops oil sands which involve high carbon emissions.
The U.N. compliance experts are unlikely to fail any other countries besides Greece and possibly Canada, a U.N. official said.
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(Editing by James Jukwey)