Being awarded the French Legion of Honour was a timely reminder that the “pivotal” targets in the Paris climate agreement matter, and that relationships among countries make a difference in the fight to decarbonize, former Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna said this week.
McKenna received France’s highest order of merit for her work on the 2015 Paris accord while she was back in that city for President Emmanuel Macron’s global finance summit last week.
“La lutte continue” (the struggle continues), she wrote in a LinkedIn post afterwards.
“It’s maybe a bit abstract, but it’s a reminder when we get down about the COPs that the Paris agreement was such a pivotal moment,” McKenna said of the award. “Even if things are bad, in the sense that we’re not advancing as we need to do, without the Paris agreement we’d have nothing.” Meeting would take place, but without a framework agreement that included a temperature goal to stabilize the global climate.
“That’s something amazing, and we can’t ever forget it,” she told The Energy Mix, even though “when we see the science… we still have a lot of work to do.”
McKenna said this year’s United Nations climate negotiations in Dubai will be a “particularly challenging COP”. The two weeks of negotiations will be hosted by one of the world’s leading petro-states, the United Arab Emirates, and chaired by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Sultan al Jaber.
After al Jaber tried to suggest that countries can reduce fossil fuel emissions without actually scaling back fossil fuel extraction, a group of 130 elected officials from the United States and the European Union called for the UN to replace him as COP chair, in what one news organization called a “remarkable rebuke”.
McKenna said it’s important to keep up the pressure for the negotiating breakthroughs that will get countries on track to address the climate emergency.
“It’s been made very clear that when you host the COP, you’re not pushing your own interests. You’re pushing the interests of the Paris agreement,” she said. “The 1.5°C goal is what we need to be focused on, and so you need to be advancing that cause.”
While there’s a lot to be said for being a “realistic optimist,” she added, “it’s a problem when people say it’s about emissions, not fossil fuel companies. Emissions are coming from fossil fuel companies, we need to move to renewables, and we need to not spend all our time hoping for tech solutions that don’t align with our time frame,” beginning with a 45% global emissions cut by 2030.
While it’s easy to get lost on the complexities of global negotiations, “it’s not actually that complicated,” McKenna added. “Emissions need to go down now, absolute emissions across the value chain. Money needs to go to clean energy at scale, and we need to ensure a just transition. Oil and gas companies have not shown they’re capable of doing that, and in fact they’ve pushed back on the policies they would need to meet the commitments they have made.”
But “there’s a price of admission” to get climate change under control, and “that’s not [a] 2050 [target]. It’s right now.”