Hot air at the Paris climate summit

Canada’s delegation to the Paris climate talks speaks in lofty tones. But hints about targets are hard to come by.

Francois Hollande receives Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, for a working lunch at the Elysee palace.

Francois Hollande receives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a working lunch at the Elysee palace. (Lionel Préau, Riva Press, Redux)

Atiya Jaffar spent her teen years in Canada, returning to Pakistan in 2010 for a visit that coincided with the worst rainy season in 50 years. Massive monsoon flooding forced millions from their homes and also forced a realization, for Jafar, of climate change’s most dramatic impact.

“We turned on the television and I saw this image of these people who were clinging to barbed-wire fences with their hands, with water just gushing around them,” Jaffar said. “That was one of the most powerful images I saw that made me recognize the immediacy of the [climate change] crisis.”

Jaffar’s concern about extreme weather, as well as its disproportionate impact on the world’s poor, prompted her to join Canada’s youth delegation in Paris this week for the United Nations climate change conference, also known as COP21.

Jaffar and the youth delegation are not alone in their conviction. They joined 50,000 other participants and more than 150 leaders from around the world—organizers say it is the largest gathering of heads of state, ever—at a converted air hangar north of Paris as the conference kicked off with soaring speeches and apocalyptic visions.

President Barack Obama told the conference “the next generation is watching,” while Britain’s David Cameron said “the Earth is in peril” and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced: “Canada is back, my friends. We are here to help.”

And with that, they were off. Now the world’s most influential leaders have mostly flown home, leaving their teams of negotiators to spend two weeks locked in temporary rooms, arranged by country and voting block, hammering out an agreement to try to prevent more than two degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels. The talks are the culmination of years of preparation, as developed and developing countries debate who needs to do more to mitigate global warming—and which countries need to pay for it. Proposals currently on offer could limit warming to 2.7° C. There is hope the next weeks of negotiation could push that number lower.

Canadian Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left), Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (right) listen as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference with at the United Nations climate change summit Monday, November 30, 2015 in Le Bourget, near Paris, France. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Canadian Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left), Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (right) listen as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference with at the United Nations climate change summit Monday, November 30, 2015 in Le Bourget, near Paris, France. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his new environment minister, Catherine McKenna, arrived in Paris talking of ambition, but armed with no hint of a new goal to improve on the last government’s much-maligned targets. The Conservatives pledged to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent above 2005 levels by 2020, and by 30 per cent by 2030.

The Liberals won goodwill on the international stage simply by embracing climate science and arriving as willing negotiating partners. It also helped that Trudeau announced $2.65 billion over five years to help poor countries adapt to the impacts of a warming planet. “The new government has really brought new hope, especially for developing countries,” said Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia. Standing outside the building that houses the conference’s main plenary room (away from the lineups for fair trade coffee and the ubiquitous recycling bins), he said Canada was the first to announce climate funding for developing countries “with a timeline, with a roadmap­—U.S., Japan, nobody has done it.”

Countries at risk of being flooded literally out of existence as glaciers melt—from Antigua to Haiti to Vanuatu—are negotiating as a block the UN refers to as “small island developing states.” Barijaona Ramaholimihaso, chair of the Madagascar Biodiversity Fund, says his country is fighting climate change on all fronts, from drought in the south to flooding in the north and the threat of intense hurricanes throughout. But the country with a per capita GDP of $1,800 is too poor to manage those threats without assistance. “We are already in emergency mode,” he said.

So far, Trudeau has refused to say when Canadians will find out what kind of emission cuts the Liberals are considering, or how, exactly, the federal government will work with the provinces and territories to improve the country’s performance. It is widely believed Canada will not meet the Conservative-set 2020 target, and instead will have to buy international carbon offsets, then work toward an improved performance for 2030. Trudeau invited the premiers to Paris and has promised to hold another first ministers meeting 90 days after the conference, although it’s not clear if that will be when any new Trudeau targets are unveiled—if indeed there are to be new targets.

Both Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, who has a long-time interest in climate change, say the Liberals laid out their plan in the Liberal election platform: $5.7 billion over four years for green infrastructure and another $300 million a year for clean technology and energy efficiency initiatives, as well as a $2-billion low-carbon economy trust to fund projects that reduce emissions.

“There is an obsession about targets among some people,” Dion said, rather pointedly, in an interview shortly after a press conference in which Trudeau avoided answering questions about what comes after the premiers meeting. “It’s very nice to have a target and to announce it to the media to look good. If you have no plan to implement it after, what kind of credibility [do] you have?”

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a news conference, in Paris, France, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks during a news conference, in Paris, France, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Sitting on a sofa near the Canadian delegation office, Dion says delegates at COP21 see that Canada is serious and wants to do its share. “Emissions in Canada are still going up and [the] countries are aware of that. And they are aware of the fact that we have a plan and that’s the key point.”

But already, there is trouble. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, whose province’s economy relies heavily on the oil and gas industry, says he doesn’t like the idea of more ambitious federal targets and warns he would oppose a national carbon tax if the revenue were to leave the provinces. Wall would also like to see credit given for Saskatchewan’s investments in carbon capture and sequestration technology, which he told reporters in Paris is “the largest per capita investment in technology that will mitigate carbon.”

The premiers of the most populous provinces have carbon pricing of some kind, or specific plans to introduce it. They are also likely to ask for credit or compensation for their own efforts to lower emissions.

“We’ll meet and then we’ll determine what we can do together, and what the federal government can do to support and encourage each of us,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in an interview with Maclean’s in Paris. That means using the funds Trudeau has allocated for helping the provinces move more quickly or be more ambitious about their programs. “Because the federal position can’t just be the sum of what the provinces are doing. It has to go beyond that.”

Wall is widely expected to be the tough sell at the premiers meeting, but Wynne says the carbon capture experiment suggests otherwise. “Brad Wall is interested in that kind of innovation. He talks about it. So we’re really not as far apart as sometimes it sounds.”

Trudeau has three months before meeting his premiers, and he could wait up to a year until the United Nations needs to know how Canada plans to fulfill its promises.

For now, the political clock in Canada is ticking quietly.

Photo gallery: 7 days, 15 photos


Hot air at the Paris climate summit

  1. Ludicrous, disgusting, corrupt. Only in four countries do the majority of plebes believe the lie or give a damn.

  2. As far as I understand it, switching car alternators to voltage controls hooked up to ECUs was a big mistake. In the 1990s, alternators went from having their own regulators (keeps voltage output constant) to having this function done by a computer located elsewhere in the chasis.
    When pandemics happen, electricity will help prevent us from going outside and infecting ourselves until a vaccine or decontamination process occurs. Some of the inertia for the switchover was better fuel efficiency. The pandemic risk supersedes the AGW risk here. With a bike and car it is easy enough to keep some household power going easily. A pop-rivet gun looks like the most uncommon component and it is an easy part of a pandemic kit. The wind turbines blades can be made better in the future, than with sheet metal now. Existing slow minded automakers will be hurt by the reduction in gasoline consumption, but this subsidy would help. Give them money to make an alternator that once again has an internal regulator or some new internal ECU. It would help to be able to take it out with a common socket set. It would help for it to be more durable. A car invention that could down-regulate the alternator RPMs would be even better for the species. The real solution is electric power and solar, not needing an alternator. And the electric battery powers many home applications. You wouldn’t want to go to your EE savvy or mechanic neighbours; would want everything @home.
    They said if Ontario hadn’t funded Catholic schools, would be a world leader in most technologies, but also synthetic biology and biotechnology. The latter should be stopped and the former slowed, so it is best Ontario had inferior schools to MB’s and MB copycats. They said existing safety nets discourage a healthy work ethic, but are good for (war-torn) newcomers as they encourage loyalty. I suppose as the education premium and Gini increases, taking away existing subsidies is less important than is ensuring new ones are efficient. I probably wouldn’t retrain unless my small biz’s fail, but the opportunity to have this funded here is dependant on me having been laidoff. This seems arbitrary. Maybe it means looking for a seasonal job or maybe not, I couldn’t care to find out how seasonal jobs are assessed. If my biz’s fail, I would consider an EE course or the closest things to materials science that a CC offered, and it is in everyone’s best interest to get low income persons education.

  3. I love how every flood, drought, or natural disaster is now immediately blamed on climate change and to cast any doubt on this means you are anti-science. Sad state of affairs in this country.

  4. Well, this doesn’t come as a surprise to me, but please note this came out in October. As suspected, most of the media ignored it, and none of the politicians took note.


    On another note, please read it to see that much of what is written here was already well known (but not believed) by many on this site. In fact, much of what you see here……was noted by me about two years ago on this same site. Apparently, the key to understanding the truth about globaal warming comes down to facts, logic, and numbers.

    No wonder the “liberal arts” folks don’t get it. Math is hard.

    • Hah.
      Despite that editorial not being able to make it past the first half of the first sentence without making up complete BS – A former climate modeller for the Government’s Australian Greenhouse Office (he’s never been a climate modeller) – I’m sure that Dr. Evans(who previously falsely claimed to be a ‘rocket scientist’!) has finally slain global warming fraud cuz math, or something.
      As jameshalifax points out, this editorial came out in October and the media has ignored it.

      • Tresus…stop pretending you read it.

        We know you didn’t.

        Leave it for the grown ups to decide.

        • Uh no, I haven’t.
          The main reason being IT HASN’T BEEN PUBLISHED.

          “When it is completed his work will be published as two scientific papers. Both papers are undergoing peer review.”


      • This is the standard response from climate change believers. When someone presents an argument that attempts to disprove man made climate change, people like you never even bother responding to their argument. Instead, you attack the person’s character and decide that that sufficiently invalidates their position.

        • So, what arguments would those be?
          Are you telling me you’re one of the peer-reviewers his papers have been sent to before publication?

          • Sorry for not responding earlier. Maclean’s tends to arbitrarily drop stories from their main page making them difficult to find again. If you bothered to read the article (which obviously is not your thing) you would know that he is posting his findings on a blog. You can read them here: http://joannenova.com.au/?s=david+evans. Once complete he will publish his work which will be peer reviewed.

          • So his work isn’t complete or peer-reviewed, but it establishes something?
            Which is what precisely?
            For example, it’s obviously not the post titled “New Science 20: It’s not CO2, so what Is the main cause of Global Warming?” that jameshalifax was referring to because jameshalifax keeps telling us that there is no warming.

        • Ark2…

          It never matters what Tresus is presented. He never reads any of it, and then proclaims he doesn’t have to because it hasn’t been “peer reviewed” which, as you and I know, is just his way of admitting he is too lazy, or the topic is too complex for him to understand.

          The truth of course, is that many of these “science” magazines or papers Tresus is referring to, would NEVER publish anything that goes against their narrative.

          It is not quite a catch-22, but it does allow Tresus to remain ignorant, lazy, and ill informed, while maintaining his own high opinion of himself.

          He honestly doesn’t realize how idiotic he looks. don’t tell him though…it’s kind of fun watching him turn himself into knots to look even more stupid than we thought he was.

          • ““When it is completed his work will be published as two scientific papers. Both papers are undergoing peer review.”

            So where did you read it?

  5. Obviously that arch criminal lurking in the shadows (Scrooge McDuck) once again gathered human cartoon characters together to act out another episode of the Saturday morning cartoons all of his people laugh at.
    Humans have had 6,000 years to prove they are able to solve their own problems and all that happens is they dress up some well spoken puppets gather them together, they babble together, shake hands, take photo’s, eat better than most of their own people, go home and do it again…..we’re the cartoons Donald Duck is real and he’s laughing at us…

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