Canada will be more ‘am­bi­tious’

McKenna con­cerned global pol­i­tics may keep Paris agree­ment rules at bay

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIA RAB­SON THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — Canada will be ready to set tougher emis­sion­scut­ting plans when the Paris climate-change agree­ment kicks in by the end of 2020, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna says.

McKenna is head­ing to Poland next week for the 24th an­nual United Na­tions climate-change meet­ing, where the na­tions of the world are sup­posed to de­cide how each coun­try will be held ac­count­able for its promised cuts to car­bon emis­sions.

A se­condary dis­cus­sion at the meet­ing is on de­mands that coun­tries set more am­bi­tious goals. This month’s meet­ing, known as the Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties (or “COP24”), comes two months af­ter climate-change sci­en­tists warned the world that with­out sig­nif­i­cantly deeper emis­sions cuts, the planet is on course for ir­re­versible and dev­as­tat­ing climate changes.

Canada, that re­port said in Oc­to­ber, needs to cut emis­sions al­most in half if it is to do its part. Canada’s cur­rent tar­get is to cut them by about 27 per cent.

McKenna has been re­luc­tant to look at set­ting tougher goals when the coun­try’s climate change plan is still not strong enough to meet the weaker ones.

But, she ac­knowl­edged in an in­ter­view, “in 2020 ev­ery­one has to come back and be more am­bi­tious,” and she said Canada will.

McKenna said be­fore then, the stan­dards to be set in Poland are needed to help the world take stock of its progress and en­sure that ev­ery­one is mea­sur­ing and re­port­ing by uni­ver­sally un­der­stood rules. That will give con­fi­dence that when a coun­try says its tar­gets are be­ing met, they ac­tu­ally are.

Writ­ing the rule book at the meet­ing this month is made all the more dif­fi­cult af­ter the elec­tion of sev­eral gov­ern­ments that are less en­thu­si­as­tic about the Paris agree­ment.

The United States un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is pre­par­ing to with­draw at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity — which is in 2020 — and the newly elected gov­ern­ment in Brazil cam­paigned on a prom­ise to do the same thing. The Brazil­ian gov­ern­ment also just can­celled its plans to host the an­nual COP meet­ing in 2019.

McKenna said in the cur­rent global po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, the Paris ac­cord might never have been reached.

“I think it would be much harder,” she said.

The Paris agree­ment, which ev­ery coun­try in the world has signed, aims to re­duce the amount of green­house gases be­ing spewed into the at­mos­phere enough to keep the in­crease in av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture to no more than 2 C, com­pared to pre-in­dus­trial times, and as close to 1.5 C as pos­si­ble.

The world’s av­er­age tem­per­a­ture has al­ready warmed up at least 1 C com­pared to the 19th cen­tury, and it is con­tin­u­ing to warm by about 0.2 C each decade. At the cur­rent rate of emis­sions, the planet will be 1.5 C warmer by 2052, sci­en­tists pre­dict. Af­ter that, the im­pact on hu­man health and ecosys­tems be­comes far more prob­lem­atic.

Cather­ine Abreu, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Climate Ac­tion Net­work Canada, said she is “thrilled” Canada is fi­nally talk­ing about in­creas­ing its goals.

“That’s some­thing Canada has re­ally hedged on,” she said.

In prepa­ra­tion for set­ting new tar­gets, Canada is launch­ing a new climate-change in­sti­tute. The re­search and pol­icy body is sup­posed to open within the next year to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment on how its ex­ist­ing poli­cies are work­ing and what else should be done. The gov­ern­ment plans to give it $20 mil­lion over five years.

Abreu said she wants the in­sti­tute to be more than just an­other think-tank; she wants it to be the or­ga­ni­za­tion that assesses Canada’s progress in meet­ing its emis­sions tar­gets.

Thirty-three mem­bers of the Climate Ac­tion Net­work wrote to McKenna and Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau this week ask­ing them to set emis­sions tar­gets in bind­ing leg­is­la­tion that would not only com­pel the gov­ern­ment to hit tar­gets, but make back­ing out more dif­fi­cult for fu­ture gov­ern­ments.

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