Has Canada Come Back?

By Roy L Hales

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The Canadian delegation in Paris is more than 250 strong. In addition to the Prime Minister, five Premiers, representatives from the provinces and Territories whose Premiers did not attend, representatives from all the opposition parties, twenty negotiators, support staff, personal from the Canadian embassy in Paris, mayors, business people, youth leaders,  environmentalists and reporters. There has never been a Canadian delegation this large at any previous COP and the sheer size of this endeavour shows that  Canada is taking COP 21 seriously. After a decade of withdrawal from the fight against Climate Change, has Canada come back?

Size of the Delegation

As might be expected, this prompted a reporter at this morning’s press conference to ask, “Can you tell us how big the government funded dellegation is? (as opposed to people who paid their own way) And secondly, can you explain how this large delegation fits into the negotiation process?”

These were not questions that Canada’s lead negotiator, Ms. Louise Métivier, was prepared for.

She said that provinces and territories determined the size of their contingents and reminded us that we had all been given access to an eleven page long list with the names and occupations of everyone in the delegation.

(Ironically, I heard almost the exact opposite criticism yesterday. Nine members of the delegation presumably introduced themselves to an American reporter of my acquaintance as “the Canadian delegation.” Comparing them to the 50 member strong contingent from Zambia, he decided that the Africans take Climate Change seriously and Canadians are more complacent.)

The First Session

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talking with Canada's 20 negotiators - Courtesy © Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talking with Canada’s 20 negotiators – Courtesy Justin Trudeau via Flickr (© All rights reserved)

This first segment of COP 21 is almost over.

Ms Métivier  says “the negotiations were more at the official level and (Canada’s contingent was) led by myself as Chief negotiator.”

Their goal was try to shorten, and simplify, the draft agreement.

“To do this, we have a large number of discussions happening in parallel. We have spinoff groups, where negotiators try to solve particular articles, or parts of articles,” said Ms Métivier .

She was not at liberty to discuss the substance of these articles, except to say that everyone was aware of the seriousness of the matters at hand.

The High Level Segment

“Next week is referred to as the high level segment. At that point the COPs residency for the French government takes over the work of the negotiation. That’s where the Ministers are directly involved and why it is called high level segment. Those Ministers head the delegations for their countries. Ms McKenna indicated she intends to play a very active role in the negotiations,” said Ms Métivier.

Has Canada Come Back?

Prime Minister Trudeau takes part in a session on carbon pricing during COP21 in Paris - Courtesy Justin Trudeau via Flickr (© All rights reserved)
Prime Minister Trudeau takes part in a session on carbon pricing during COP21 in Paris – Courtesy Justin Trudeau via Flickr (© All rights reserved)

It is obvious that Prime Minister Trudeau takes Climate Change seriously. According to Elizabeth May, “Canada is back.” After close to a decade of sabotaging negotiations, we are once again one of the progressive nations seeking global solutions.

For some members of the Canadian delegation, COP 21 may be a wake-up call.  Others have been more conscious of the consequences of doing nothing. The real question is what will Canada achieve?

The scent of defeat is already coming from the West.

After much anticipation, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley set a “cap” on her province’s emissions that is 43% higher than what it is producing. This looks like capitulation to corporate interests, not climate action.

British Columbia’s Climate Leadership Team does not see any route for the province to achieve its’ 2020 emissions target.

Matt Horne did not mention Christy Clark’s name, during a recent Pembina Institute press conference, but said B.C. could not make up for it’s lack of initiative the last “three or four years.” (Clark has been Premier since 2011.)

Though quick to boast about the British Columbia’s much publicized carbon tax, the Premier put an end to the $5 per tonne per year increases after winning a majority in the 2013 provincial election.

In a news release, B.C’s Environment Minister Mary Polak explained “The provincial government has frozen the current $30/per tonne carbon tax until 2018 in order to allow other jurisdictions to catch up to British Columbia. The province would only consider an increase in the carbon tax under a regime where emission-intensive, trade-exposed industries are fully protected from any carbon tax increase.”

Translation:

  1. Premier Christy Clark’s government will consider increasing the carbon tax if they win the 2017 provincial election
  2. The government’s  pet LNG  industry will be exempt from any tax increases. Less polluting industries and homeowners would pay.
  3. Clark puts a much higher priority on mega-projects like LNG development than protecting her province from Climate Change.

Prime Minister Trudeau faces a dilemma. He wants to form a common front with the provinces, but unless he can rein them in Canada may not be able to achieve whatever it agrees to at COP 21.

Has Canada come back? Or are we just waking up to how far we have to go?

Top Photo Credit: Canada’s Prime Minster and five Premiers: (l to r) Premier Rachel Motley of Alberta; Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia, Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec, Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan – Courtesy Justin Trudeau via Flickr (© All rights reserved)

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