Expectations build for Canada at Paris’s now-or-never climate summit

Canada’s new government has raised expectations by simply not being the Conservatives. With these high stakes, will Justin Trudeau deliver real action?

Justin Trudeau in Edmonton June 4, 2015 during an interview with the Globe and Mail's Ian Brown. (John Lehmann/CPl)

Justin Trudeau in Edmonton June 4, 2015 during an interview with the Globe and Mail’s Ian Brown. (John Lehmann/CPl)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tried to set low expectations for his trip to the Paris climate conference next week, promising no plan to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions until 90 days later. But the international pressure on Canada could be greater than the domestic expectations.

Observers say there’s a sense that the Paris conference is the last chance for the world to come together to stem rising temperatures, which scientists say will result in catastrophic climate change. That sense is amplified by the fact 150 countries have already committed to targets—or intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)—ahead of the conference, and that major emitters like China and the U.S. have already reached bilateral agreements. The conditions feel right for an agreement, says John Drexhage, senior advisor to Coop Carbone, a Quebec group that advocates for green technology to cut emissions.

Related: Alberta’s greenhouse gas plan: a glass half-full or half-empty?

“Everyone’s on the train and the train has begun to leave the station,” Drexhage told Maclean’s. “There’s that kind of sense of a potentially much more constructive global engagement through this INDC process than what we’ve seen [before].”

That feeling of now-or-never could drive attention to Canada’s contributions, for which environmentalists have high hopes: the World Resources Institute, an environmental NGO, this month pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government as one of the stories to watch in Paris, referring to it as “new Canada.” That’s opposed to the Conservative government, who lost the Oct. 19 election to the Liberals, and who angered many by pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol when it became clear Canada would miss its targets by a long shot.

Related: At the first ministers summit, the meeting was the message

That’s a narrative the Liberals have encouraged. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna went as far as to announce “Canada is back” at a pre-conference meeting earlier this month. But she and Trudeau head to the conference with the old government’s much-maligned targets for lowering emissions. It might not be enough to promise that, unlike the Conservatives and the Chrétien Liberals before them, this time Canada has a plan to reach those goals.

“There’s an awful lot riding on Canada,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May. “I expect good things. But definitely a lot globally is riding on Justin Trudeau’s speech.”

Trudeau and the other leaders will kick off the climate talks on Monday before leaving the negotiating to officials, but there’s some room for him to make an announcement in his speech that day. McKenna has repeatedly said the last government’s targets are the lowest Canada will go. And while the Liberals won’t promise a plan to get to those targets until they meet with the premiers 90 days after the Paris talks, May hopes they commit to new goals. The risk for the Liberals is the fact that some experts argue the current Canadian targets are plenty ambitious enough, given the lack of the aforementioned plan to hit them.

Related: What to expect from Canada’s trip to the Paris climate talks

“What I think they need to do when they’re in Paris is be clear that they are going to take significant action,” said Paul Boothe, former deputy minister at Environment Canada and professor at Western’s Ivey School of Business. “The thing that we’re short of is credibility, not ambition.”

Still, May says she’d like to see Canada start fresh. “The key thing is going to be whether Justin Trudeau actually announces new targets when he’s in Paris,” she said. “His speech could actually set in motion a successful negotiation or it might not… If he says that [he’s waiting 90 more days] I think it’s going to flatten a lot of expectations.”

That’s a lot of pressure for a government that was sworn in less than a month ago.

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Expectations build for Canada at Paris’s now-or-never climate summit

  1. Every national leader at these summits is hoping for exactly the same thing. Someone needs to be the sacrificial lamb and commit their nation to an actual and intense carbon reduction scheme that destroys jobs by the hundreds of thousands, or millions, in a very short period. They desperately need someone to commit their own nation to a rapid and painful economic suicide, so that they can then take a leadership stance AGAINST the climate change alarmist machine.
    Only when some ally or neighbor is plummeting into an economic abyss of their own making, having taxed carbon through the roof and driven electrical production and transportation into the ground, will there be enough incentive for some national leader to stand up to the eco-Marxists.
    The problem we in Canada have is that our new Dear Leader is exactly the kind of vacuous moron that is capable of putting such a plan in motion.

    • Whoa, calm down. The Commies aren’t coming to destroy your job anymore than the Islamic terrorists were coming to blow up your local mall.

    • You’ve explained the situation exactly but don’t expect any support from our far left media or the minions who blindly follow their undermining propaganda without question. It’s refreshing to see that there are at least a few Canadians who are able to open their eyes and think for themselves. Well done.

    • Bill Greenwood: Bingo!! Well said! Thank you!

  2. Paris is a fraud, because like Clinton and Gore’s signature on Kyoto was worthless, Obama’s signature on any agreement will be worthless.

    American President’s promise big but never deliver.

    The only thing Obama is capable of delivering is drone missiles raining from the sky.

  3. Please let it be never so we can put this nonsense behind us…

  4. How many times have we been told in the past that “This is our final chance.”, “It’s now or never.”, “We have to act now before it’s too late.”, and so on and so on? Even if we neglect the alarmist claims proceeding every “politically driven” and “government sponsored” climate conference, we can see its regular use by advertisers and the “street-profits” who are well aware of the success of these claims on the gullible.
    With claims based solely on mathematical models which have had a 95% failure rate to date (I know, the next ones will be better, etc.), it is truly amazing that there is anyone anywhere who will give the climate charletons the time of day.
    However, we’ve sent our part-time drama teacher to save the world…

    • Yes – I am fearful about the economic destruction that Justin, aided by the discredited Dion, will bring down on Canada. I grew tired of the Harper bombast on the world stage but I did appreciate his rational economic and environmental outlook. Much as I did not like Harper’s bluster – I am already growing tired of the Trudeau – I am so good, so just, so benevolent, so cute – persona being projected. No Justin – please do not throw away billions of Canadian tax dollars to support “green sustainability” in the third world. We have already given enough to this cause, especially when the money most often ends up in the pockets of the political class.

      No – as someone with a sound education in the Earth Sciences – I do not believe in AGW although nobody can reject the notion of inevitable, cyclical climate change. Even if it does come about it will not be the end of the world! A warmer planet has always been a more verdant and productive world warmer planet as a whole! And – don’t forget – we are merely in a little pause between ice ages – enjoy – LOL!

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