Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna expressed support Sunday for including a more ambitious global warming limit of 1.5ºC/2.7ºF in the final agreement produced at the United Nations climate summit in Paris.
Canada will support a reference “to the recognition of the need to strive to limit global warming to 1.5,” McKenna said. The Minister also supported a legally binding requirement “that every country submit targets, report progress on those targets, and improve them regularly,” CBC reports.
“Observers say it’s the first time Canada has publicly articulated a specific position on the issue since climate change talks started,” Ayed writes. “And that is an indication, insiders say, that Canada’s exact position on some of these questions was still being formulated following the October federal election.”
On Saturday, McKenna said the Paris agreement should include specific language on the importance of respecting human rights, including the rights of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plenary speech earlier in the week listed five principles to guide the country’s action on climate change, including a “commitment to work with Indigenous leaders who are taking action on climate change, from whom we recognize we have much to learn when it comes to caring for our planet,” the Minister said.
“I have instructed Canada’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change and her team to strongly advocate for the inclusion in the Paris Agreement of language that reflects the importance of respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples. We have also highlighted the importance of considering Indigenous traditional knowledge alongside scientific analysis.”
Throughout the conference, Canadian representatives have made it clear the country’s negotiating position will be driven by climate science. The 2.0º target was agreed at the Copenhagen climate conference six years ago, but since then, science has learned more about climate change impacts. “Low-lying countries are already vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” CBC notes, “and many activists have been calling on developed nations to support their call for a 1.5 C limit.”
While McKenna fell short of backing immediate, concrete measures to keep average global warming below 1.5ºC, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May welcomed the statement. “The whole question of a long-term goal is so critical,” she told CBC.
On Sunday, McKenna was one of 14 elected officials tapped by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to facilitate specific aspects of the week’s negotiations, the first time in a decade that Canada has received such an invitation. She told Ayed she was “honoured” to be asked.
“Work is progressing well, though much remains to be done to finalize the text,” she said. “Like me, ministers from other countries are now fully engaged in this next crucial step.”