Canada’s newly-appointed environment and climate change minister came in for some good-natured but pointed ribbing yesterday from ECO, the widely-read daily newsletter that Climate Action Network-International produces at the annual UN climate conference—a publication for which Steven Guilbeault once served as editor.
The story was published just hours before Guilbeault appeared in an online briefing hosted by the Cities on the Road to Glasgow initiative, in which he laid out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call for a global carbon price covering 60% of the world’s emissions by 2030.
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“Hey Guilbeault! It’s Your Old Friend, ECO,” the earlier news article begins. “Do you remember the long nights? The wordplay? ECO remembers you—drafting articles to fill our pages, calling out climate inaction, doing what you knew best: speaking truth to power. Oh man, we had fun!”
The article recounts Guilbeault’s history as a founder of CAN-International, chair of its board, ECO editor, and the member of the Canadian observer delegation who more than once awarded the federal government a coveted Fossil of the Day award, referring to Canada as the “bad kid at the back of the class”. For more than a quarter-century, “Steven was collaborating in meeting rooms, demonstrating in action zones, and speaking up in interventions alongside other civil society comrades,” ECO writes.
“This year, with the return of COP comes the return of a veteran of these negotiations—this time, in a different position of power—one which brings with it many privileges, and many responsibilities,” the article continues. And “ECO is hopeful that the climate hero we know is the climate hero we’ll see in the Cairn Gorm Plenary” at the COP 26 conference hall.
“At COP 26, ECO will be watching to see if you can help Canada rechart the journey of an administration shackled to increased funding of fossil fuel subsidies and a vintage pipeline purchase. We hope to see you instead take Canada by the hand and lead the nation down a more responsible path towards the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”
With those high-stakes issues in play, “ECO trusts that you will put people and the planet front and centre,” the article concludes. “We’re counting on you not to break our hearts.”
At the Cities on the Road to Glasgow event, Guilbeault said municipalities “are at the forefront of the fight against climate change and the solutions we need to put in place,” the “perfect incarnation” of the principle of thinking globally and acting locally. He pointed to wider use of federal infrastructure dollars—for projects like urban parks, as well as more traditional investments in “roads, bridges, aquaducts”—to “help us alleviate the impacts of climate change” and build local solutions.
He added that Canada’s experience with carbon pricing could be useful to developing countries, where officials worry that putting a price on carbon pollution will only add new hardships for citizens who are already scrambling to cover the cost of basic, day-to-day necessities.
“Canada has an elegant solution for them,” he told moderator Shauna Sylvester, executive director of the Wosk Centre for Dialogue, with a system that prices pollution but then returns most of the proceeds to households, giving them the wherewithal to consider lower-carbon practices that save them money.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau co-hosted an event where he showcased Canada’s carbon price “as one of the most ambitious and, in his words, stringent in the world,” The Canadian Press reports.
“What a strong carbon price does, when it’s properly designed, is actually drive those price signals to the private sector, transform the economy, and support citizens in encouraging them to make better choices,” Trudeau said.
“We recognize right now that only about 20% of global emissions are covered by a price on pollution,” the PM added. So “we should be ambitious and say as of right here today that we want to triple that to 60% of global emissions,” which “should be covered by a price on pollution in 2030.”
At the end of the carbon pricing session, Guilbeault said, a minister from one developing country approached him for details, and they’ve already agreed to set up a workshop to dig into the details.