Rhetoric won’t be enough to establish Prime Minister-Designate Justin Trudeau’s leadership on climate change, climate organizer and self-described “pessoptimist” Leehi Yona argued last week in a Montreal Gazette op ed that called for a First Ministers’ meeting on climate change before the UN summit convenes.
“Trudeau spoke of Canadians’ ‘positive, optimistic, hopeful vision’ for our country. That vision must include protection of our future under climate change, first and foremost,” Yona writes.
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“I have experienced first hand the overwhelming shame of being Canadian in these negotiations during the past few years. As many of my colleagues in international work would agree, Canada’s reputation as a peaceful, cooperative nation shifted sharply; Canada threw temper tantrums in an attempt to stall progress.” Exciting as it is to see the country’s reputation improve, “in order to lead in Paris, Trudeau should call a First Ministers’ meeting before the conference begins, to raise political ambition.”
Yona cast climate change as an issue of intergenerational justice. “Generations of young Canadians like me are deeply concerned about our future,” she says. “Our children and grandchildren have the right to a Canada that is filled with at least as many opportunities as the one into which we were born.”
To make a credible showing in Paris, agreed National Observer correspondent Charles Mandel, Trudeau “will have to first consult with Canada’s premiers and then come up with a plan that will deliver Canada’s commitment to emissions reductions in line with other global leaders, and that will somehow appease environmental groups as well.” Climate Action Network Canada Executive Director Louise Comeau said she was “cautiously optimistic” about an early First Ministers’ gathering.
“It will take some real work,” Comeau said. “It should be done. We believe it can be done, and then we should go to Paris and lay out as best we can with the time available what it is we will do.”
WWF-Canada CEO and former Toronto mayor David Miller said an early commitment to targets may be less important than the new tone and ongoing program to which Trudeau has committed. “It’s clear from the way they crafted their platform that there’s been a lot of thought put into it,” Miller told the Toronto Star.
“Trudeau doesn’t just consider climate change an environmental problem; he sees inaction as a major economic risk and a missed opportunity for job creation as the rest of the world weans from fossil fuels,” writes climate and energy reporter Tyler Hamilton. “‘Pretending that we have to choose between the two is as harmful as it is wrong,’ reads the Liberal platform.”
Paul Heinbecker, who led the Canadian delegation to the Kyoto climate change negotiations in 1997, said other countries may not expect the country to come up with a new target by early December. “Our government has been seen as kind of eccentric,” he told CBC, “but the world realizes it was a bit of an aberration for Canada.”