Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed a meeting with provincial and territorial premiers Monday evening by promising a “Canadian approach” to climate solutions when the UN climate summit opens next week in Paris.
“We’ll demonstrate that we are serious about climate change,” the PM said, following a four-hour working dinner with 11 of the 13 premiers. “This means making decisions based on science, it means reducing carbon emissions, including through carbon pricing towards a climate-resilient economy. It means collaborating with our provincial and territorial partners, supporting climate change efforts in developing countries, and investing in sustainable economic prosperity.”
It was the first time First Ministers had met as a group since 2009.
Several premiers said they welcomed the Paris summit as an opportunity for Canada to re-establish its international standing on climate. “We have had a black eye for a long time on environmental issues, and we have not deserved it,” said Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia. “Our country needs a serious effort in rebranding on this theme of climate change and energy,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
But Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall pointed to the 30,000 jobs that have already been lost in Canada’s energy sector. “As we prepare for Paris and to present a constructive and national front to the world, we need to be mindful of that fact,” he said. “We need to work hard to ensure that we’re doing no further harm to an industry that’s facing great difficulty.”
Earlier in the meeting, First Ministers heard from two leading climate scientists who said the rate of warming in Canada is twice the national average.
“Warming over the 20th century is unequivocal and largely due to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels,” said Ouranos Executive Director and former federal scientist Alain Bourque. He “told the First Ministers an increase of two degrees in average temperatures globally could mean that Canada would see a change of about three to four degrees,” CBC reported.
“Impacts of a changing climate are already being felt, and they will increase with further warming,” added Greg Flato, a senior research scientist and IPCC lead author at Environment and Climate Change Canada. “The science indicates that reducing greenhouse gases is what is needed in order to stabilize temperature at some level.”
The invitation to address First Ministers was “pretty remarkable” for scientists who less than a month ago were subject to a federal gag order that prevented them from discussing their work without prior permission—which was routinely withheld. “It’s certainly not like my normal day at work,” Flato told media. “It was a pleasure to be able to do that.”