Thursday, November 26, 2015

Canadian PM and Provinces Unified for COP21

On Monday November 23 Canadian premiers met with the Prime Minister to discuss a national strategy on climate change ahead of COP21. Provincial leaders will be attending the December climate talks alongside the Prime Minister. Although emissions reduction is a provincial prerogative, Ottawa will provide powerful incentives to the provinces for their emissions reduction achievements.

Trudeau has repeatedly stated that his government is prepared to ensure that Canada does it part to contain climate change.Trudeau has been making good on his commitments to advance climate action. At the meetings of the G20 and APEC last week Trudeau encouraged members to engage the struggle against global warming. Now the meeting with Canadian premieres prepares the way for Canada to play a constructive role at the forthcoming UN sponsored climate negotiations.

"We'll demonstrate that we are serious about climate change," Trudeau said in a speech at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. "This means making decisions based on science, it means reducing carbon emissions, including through carbon pricing towards a climate resilient economy. It means collaborating with our provincial and territorial partners, supporting climate change efforts in developing countries and investing in sustainable economic prosperity."

This climate conference is the first time that there has been a meeting between the leader of the federal government and his provincial counterparts in seven years. In stark contrast to his predecessor Conservative leader Stephen Harper, the new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that he will work in closely with the provinces.

There are some dramatic policy differences between the two governments. When they were in power the Conservatives rejected climate action including the idea of a carbon tax, while the Liberals have a climate focused policy agenda that promises some form of carbon pricing.

Canadians support efforts to combat global warming. Last April, six months before Canadians decisively rejected the Harper government, more than 25,000 people gathered in Quebec City to demand climate action from provincial leaders. According to a poll commissioned by Canada's Climate Action Network, almost three quarters of Canadians want the country to lead global climate protection efforts.

Canada's current emissions reduction target is 30 percent below 2005 levels and the new Liberal environment minister, Catherine McKenna, has said her government hopes to set an even more ambitious goal. Achieving such goals will be difficult in the absence of a tar sands strategy. However, the new premiere of Alberta, home of the tar sands, has already made some ambitious pledges of her own. Her new energy strategy including a carbon tax, phase-out of coal-fired power plants and an all important cap on tar sands emissions.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to meet the first ministers again in 90 days where he has promised to deliver a national climate action strategy that will include specific emissions reduction targets.

"We will continue over the next 90 days after Paris to ensure we come forward together not just with strong targets but also a with credible plan to achieve these targets," he said, speaking Monday after the meeting. "It's not enough just to have a target, we need to have a plan to achieve that target."

The Premiere of Saskatchewan Brad Wall just announced that his province will get half of its energy from renewables by 2030. Wall expressed concern about the economic impact of implementing carbon-cutting measures amid low oil prices.

Despite Wall's concerns, there was a unified front from all present at the meeting. Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, the chairman of the provincial Council of the Federation, said Canada will have a "co-ordinated" voice at COP21, "and certainly a different voice going out to the world."

Trudeau said that Canada's climate strategy is ambitious and recognizes provincial efforts. He also said that he and the provinces are ready to act together to fight climate change.

The Federal Provincial meeting is yet another reason to be believe that Canada will shed its reputation as a climate laggard and become a global champion of climate action.  

"Alberta’s new climate strategy, combined with a new federal government that is a true climate change partner for the provinces and territories, positions Canada to enter the Paris conference with a united voice. This unity is a departure from the past." said Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario.

While some may dismiss these efforts as little more than clever rebranding, under Trudeau's Liberals Canada appears to be an earnest partner in the global push to combat climate change.

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