Monday, November 9, 2015

Canada's New Minister of Environment and Climate Change is Already at Work

Catherine McKenna is not only Canada's new environment minister she is also the minister of climate change. This is the first time in Canadian history that the environment minister title also includes climate change. McKenna is an international lawyer with a background in trade law who is eminently qualified for the job.

She is a mother of three with NGO experience who co-founded a charity focused on advancing human rights in the developing world. She recently led Canadian Lawyers Abroad and she taught a graduate level course on Global Civil Society at the Munk School of Global Affairs. She has been a board member of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and she also worked as a legal adviser for the UN in East Timor and on trade issues in Indonesia.

"I think she has just the right kind of experience," said Louise Comeau, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. "We’ve moved beyond the science and even the economic dimensions on climate change. This is now about the issues of justice and fairness and I think she’s well positioned to deal with that."

Her stellar qualifications are exceeded only by her earnest desire to deliver real change.

"I know Canadians expect us to have a very ambitious plan," McKenna, 44, said during a very brief media scrum on Parliament Hill following the first Liberal cabinet meeting. "This is the reason I got into politics — to make a difference. I have three children and this is a very, very important file for me."

First and foremost McKenna has indicated that unlike her predecessors she respects the role of science to help inform policy.

"I want to be clear that Canada agrees the science is indisputable," she tweeted. More recently McKenna said, "we recognize the need for urgent/greater action that is grounded in robust science."

McKenna is already working on a raft of promises including putting a price on carbon.  "Canada recognizes the importance of putting a price on carbon to drive innovation & reduce emissions," the new environment and climate minister wrote on her Twitter feed.

She is responsible for delivering on the Liberals pledge to reverse Canada's international reputation as a climate laggard. She will also oversee the creation of a $2-billion "Low Carbon Economy Trust” to help kickstart a clean tech boom.

McKenna is already in Paris working with her counterparts to prepare the way for the forthcoming COP21 climate talks that begin at the end of this month. Her background should help her at these precursor talks where she said "were here to play a constructive role" and promised to do her best to help deliver a global climate agreement.

"The Government of Canada is determined to deliver real results on climate change and the environment. We will work with our international partners on the adoption of an effective climate change agreement and in the transformation towards a low-carbon, climate resilient global economy," McKenna said.

Canada's environmental community are not the only ones that are optimistic about the new Liberal environment and climate minister, the UNFCC's Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres aptly tweeted, "Canada is back".

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