Canada will adopt tougher greenhouse gas reduction targets when the Paris Agreement takes effect in 2020, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said yesterday, just days before her departure for this year’s United Nations climate change conference in Katowice.
Now, climate and energy transition hawks across the country will be watching for Ottawa to set an ambitious enough target to do its fair share to reverse the climate crisis—and then meet the target. The IPCC’s landmark report on 1.5°C pathways last October concluded that the country “needs to cut emissions almost in half if it is to do its part,” the Canadian Press reports. Canada’s current target is to cut them by about 27%,” and the country is far behind that goal.
McKenna’s interview with CP came on the same day that her boss, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, lectured Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band for her outspoken opposition to the now taxpayer-owned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Until now, “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,” CP states. “But, she acknowledged in an interview, ‘in 2020 everyone has to come back and be more ambitious,’ and she said Canada will.” By then, CP notes, the standards to be laid out in the Paris rule book “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.”
Climate Action Network Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu said she was “thrilled” with McKenna’s comments. “That’s something Canada has really hedged on,” she said.
CP notes that Canada is investing C$20 million over the next five years in a new climate change institute to help prepare for the new targets, and 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 (CAN-Rac) 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.” (Disclosure: Energy Mix Productions was one of the 33 signatories.)
With COP 24 now under way in Katowice, CAN-Rac reports that negotiators are off to a fast start on the large volume of technical issues they need to address. This week’s talks are crucial before ministers, including McKenna, arrive in Poland for the political phase of the conference.
The rule book issue CP raises—the transparency provisions that determine how countries measure and report progress on their Paris Agreement pledges—consumed eight to 13 hours of informal dialogue on Tuesday. “When heads of national delegations begin meeting today, they’ll be working on some of the stickier issues that have come up in negotiations so far,” CAN-Rac reports in its onsite newsletter, CANRaction.
Meanwhile, “CAN-Rac and its partner organizations around the world are working hard to counter the failings in the way Poland is approaching its responsibilities as this year’s COP president,” the newsletter states. “The presidency sets the tone and momentum for each year’s conference. Poland has done that so far by declaring that climate solutions can co-exist with continuing coal burning, and being very unclear on the need to push for an ambitious conference outcome.”
So far at the COP, UN Secretary General António Guterres has urged countries to keep their Paris promises, transform the “real economy”, and foster citizen and youth mobilization to confront the climate crisis. He called on world leaders to attend his climate summit in New York next September “prepared to address not only their progress toward achieving their goals under the Paris Agreement, but also to outline their plans and progress toward raising their ambition.”
Those plans, he added, must focus on energy transition, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local action, and climate resilience.
Renowned broadcaster Sir David Attenborough warned conference delegates that the climate crisis could collapse human civilization and conveyed the mounting public demand for effective action. “Time is running out,” he told a COP plenary session. “They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. They are behind you, along with civil society represented here today.”
In a pre-COP open letter to world leaders, heads of government and the international community from the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders affirmed its commitment to “fast-track solutions to help you deliver on an enhanced and more ambitious action plan to tackle climate change and meet the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement,” adding that “we know this is possible”. Days earlier, the 90+-member Japan Climate Leaders’ Partnership issued a call for broader public climate awareness, a vision for Japan’s leadership in a decarbonized global economy, a zero target for domestic GHG emissions in 2050, and a mix of carbon pricing and public infrastructure investment to hit that target.
Meanwhile, in Krakow, Poland, CBC reports on day-to-day life in a city with one of the worst air quality profiles in Europe.
“The official video promoting the host of this year’s crucial international climate talks paints a glowing green picture,” reports veteran journalist Nahlah Ayed. “The video makes no mention of the tough negotiations starting in Katowice, a city in Poland’s prime coal-mining country,” but “says Poland is a place where ‘care for nature’ and forest management have helped absorb climate-changing carbon dioxide gas (CO2) from the air.”
“It’s a very nice video of a place I would love to live in,” responded activist Magdalena Kozlowska. “It’s good that the government realizes that that’s the place we should live in. So that’s the goal.”
“But it’s still not the Poland we are now.”
With Krakow’s air pollution earning it an unwanted reputation as the Beijing of Europe, Ayed writes about one day care centre that has set itself up as a “virtual fortress against toxic air”.
“Daycare owner Teresa Tkaczyk-Szlachta calls hers Poland’s first anti-smog preschool, and parents have clamoured to enrol their kids,” she writes. “She and her husband invested in a custom-made filtration system to keep the premises virtually pollutant-free. Outside, if her monitor indicates pollutants are high, either the kids wear masks on outings, or they stay indoors.”