Climate negotiations in Paris are underway. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began the conference by announcing “Canada is back”, then adding there “can be no laggards” in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These are fine things to say, but contrasting messages on substantive issues are coming from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. This is cause for concern.
Before leaving for Paris, McKenna had this to say about the greenhouse gas emissions targets being considered in Paris:
“We don’t expect that the targets will be internationally legally binding.”
Despite McKenna’s remark, the explicit purpose of the Paris conference is to
“achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”
Why is McKenna, like Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, already trying to reduce expectations? If “Canada is back”, then we should be pushing nations to do more, not less.
McKenna added that no one expects Canada to announce its own national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Paris. But of course they do. The whole point of the Paris meeting is to negotiate a new climate agreement that includes targets. Canada has not updated targets submitted by the Harper government, targets that the Liberal Party’s own platform called “insufficient”. The US is already promising to cut nearly twice as much, and the EU nearly three times as much. Failing to improve our targets would make Canada, by definition, a “laggard”.
If Canada is in Paris “to help”, as Trudeau has said, then we should be leading toward a legally-binding agreement with meaningful targets. Anything less will be rightly regarded as another failure in the fight against climate change.