OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's emissions of greenhouse gases were almost unchanged from the year before in 2010, even though the economy of the major oil producer grew by 3.2 percent, the government said on Wednesday.

The right-of-center Conservative government - which green groups say is ignoring the environment to focus on the needs of the energy industry - is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

"While our continued economic recovery remains our government's top priority, today's news demonstrates that our work to balance the need for a cleaner and healthier environment while protecting jobs and growth is working," Environment Minister Peter Kent said in a statement.

An official report said greenhouse gas emissions - widely blamed for global warming - in Canada had increased by just 0.25 percent to 692 megatons in 2010 from 2009.

Since 1990, emissions have grown by 17.5 percent, while the economy had expanded by 60.5 percent, it added.

John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club Canada, said the government's failure to impose a cap on industrial emissions means the 2010 figures are meaningless.

"We are reaching a tipping point," Bennett said. "Emissions must start dropping rapidly to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Where is the sense of urgency? Where are the regulations? Where are the programs to make it happen? Nowhere."

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)