Canada still committed to the Paris Accord: McKenna

Aligning with EU and China as US ponders dropping out of the global climate agreement.

June 1, 2017   by CP STAFF

TORONTO — As the US flirts with fleeing the Paris climate-change accord, Canada is aligning itself with the world’s other two largest economies to take a global leadership role in the effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna would only say Canada remains committed to the Paris Accord, refusing to speculate about US President Donald Trump’s musings about withdrawing from the agreement.

“Canada’s just going to keep marching on, like the rest of the world,” McKenna told an event in Toronto.

Trump has said climate change is a “hoax” and campaigned on a promise to withdraw from the Paris agreement. He has apparently been pondering what to do about that promise since the November election.


On May 31, a White House official said Trump is indeed expected to withdraw the US from the accord, but may use “caveats in the language” when the time comes – leaving open the possibility that the decision isn’t final.

“I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days,” Trump tweeted Wednesday amid media reports that a withdrawal was looming.

McKenna has said what the US chooses to do is up to the US, but Canada won’t wait.

Last week in Germany, McKenna met Chinese special envoy for climate change Xie Zhenhua and European Union environment commissioner Karmenu Vella and discussed jointly hosting a meeting of environment ministers this fall to chart a path for implementing Paris among the world’s major economies.

It very likely will take place in Canada, around the same time as the United Nations General Assembly opens in New York City on Sept. 12.

“Canada is going to show leadership with China and the EU and we certainly hope the US will be joining us,” McKenna told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for almost 30% of global emissions in 2016 and recently recommitted to its Paris targets. The US is the second-largest emitter, contributing about 15%, followed by the EU, responsible for about 10%.

Canada’s emissions amount to about 1.6% of global greenhouse gases.

The Paris agreement was reached in December 2015 to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and pay for mitigation measures. All 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed the agreement; of those, 147 – including Canada – have ratified it. The agreement came into effect in November 2016.

Withdrawing from Paris would leave the US alone with Russia among the world’s industrialized economies in rejecting action to combat climate change.

During Trump’s overseas trip last week, other G7 leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pressed him to keep the US in the pact.

McKenna told the Canadian Press the rest of the world doesn’t intend to sit and wait for Trump.

“I think there is a general sense that it would be better for the US to be part of the discussions and to be at the table, but that’s a decision for the United States to make,” she said.

“Many times I’ve made the argument that climate action actually creates jobs and creates growth, which is what the United States want, what Canada wants – it’s what every country wants.

“They’re going to make their own decision, but we all need to be moving forward.”

The European Union and China will reaffirm their commitment to the Paris climate change accord this week regardless of whether US Trump pulls out of the pact, a senior EU official said.

The official told reporters that the EU and China will also “spell out” how they plan to meet their commitments to the landmark international accord to fight global warming at talks in Brussels on June 2.

Scott Vaughan, president of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said the US withdrawal would be a blow to Paris and climate change policy around the world because, until recently, it had been the leader on the file.

The agreement itself includes pillars that involve American data, including material from NASA and other US federal departments, and if the US walks away Vaughan said there will be gaps to fill.

“The US traditionally has been an absolute leader on the climate agenda, certainly in the last eight years, and if they do pull out we’ll have to see what other countries are prepared to step up on a leadership position on this,” he said.

He said countries such as China and Canada have and are stepping up and can fill the void left by the US.

“These countries are committed,” he said. “You saw that at the G7. Germany has said they will step up, the UK has said they will step up, the new French president has.”

Aims of the Paris agreement include keeping the average global increase in temperature to below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and mitigating against the impacts of climate change.

Canada’s commitments under the agreement are to reduce annual emissions to 30% less than they were in 2005 by 2030.

With files from the Associated Press

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