November 11, 2017 12:09 pm
Updated: November 12, 2017 11:16 am

McKenna heads to Germany to defend Canada’s slow start on emissions targets

WATCH: Environment Minister Catherine McKenna tells Vassy Kapelos every country including Canada needs to ‘ratchet up’ their ambitions and do more when it comes to climate change.


Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Canada will meet its greenhouse-gas emission targets on schedule in 2030, despite recent predictions to the contrary.

McKenna joined Vassy Kapelos this weekend on The West Block, and maintained that while Canada’s ambitious climate plan is off to a slow start, that doesn’t mean it won’t work.

“There are steps that happen immediately, but the big changes … they just take a while before you actually see the reductions,” McKenna said.

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“We have the path to the target.”

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Last year, Canada signed on to the Paris Agreement, pledging to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The government’s national carbon pricing plan won’t kick in until next year, McKenna told Kapelos, while phasing out coal power plants and replacing gas-guzzling buses and cars with light rail in major cities also takes time.

The minister will likely need to use the same arguments to convince the rest of the world later this week in Bonn, Germany, where she’ll be leading the Canadian delegation at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference (COP23).

Walking the walk

The federal government has sought to position Canada as a vocal leader in the fight against climate change, but at least two international bodies say we’re simply not walking the walk.

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In early November, UN Environment’s eighth annual emissions gap report noted that Canada is not on track to meet its 2030 target. Even worse, the report said, the world’s overall plan to keep the planet from warming more than 2 C is woefully insufficient.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is also flagging a lack of concrete action from Canada.

“It’s a bit of a paradox, here,” Angel Gurria told the Canadian Press recently. “In Canada, you have a situation where you have a very strong political will to reduce, but effectively it has not gone on the planned road … In the United States, you have a government that has pulled out of the (Paris) agreement, but in the United States you are having a reduction in emissions.”

McKenna remains unfazed. She acknowledged, however, that it’s true that preventing warming of more than 2 C will take more action than is currently planned.

“Every country around the world is looking at what more they can do … I think everyone needs to be ratcheting up the ambition,” she said, noting that targets and plans in the Paris Agreement will need to be strengthened every five years, with the next big push in 2020.

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Until then, McKenna said, she’ll continue to work with Canadian industries  including companies in the oil patch  to make the transition less economically painful.

“We’ve seen flooding, we’ve seen forest fires, we’re seeing melting permafrost, Prince Edward Island is receding by 43 centimetres a year,” the minister noted.

“Quite frankly, we’re not seeing the divisions (in public opinion) on climate change. Canadians have been very clear that they want to see action on climate change  that they know it’s real, that they know it’s man-made. And so we’re all moving along.”

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