Climate urgency signalled by some Canadian Premiers, others backpeddle on progress

Quebec's National Assembly. Creative Commons, OZinOH, 2008

Quebec’s National Assembly. Creative Commons, OZinOH, 2008

Despite accusations of Ottawa’s piggybacking off provincial initiatives, provincial Premiers paved the way for new climate policy yesterday — yet much remains to be done.

Yesterday’s Quebec-hosted climate summit brought together leaders from most provinces who agreed to “make a transition to a lower-carbon economy through appropriate initiatives.”Noticeably absent from meetings were leaders from four provinces, including Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, who is reportedly preparing for provincial elections next month, and BC Premier Christy Clark, who was in Washington, D.C. for the World Bank spring meetings. Clark did, however, partake in discussions by phone.

Throughout the summit, some leaders appeared more hard-pressed about the urgency of acting on climate, drawing attention to initiatives such as the cap-and-trade deal signed earlier this week by Quebec and Ontario. Despite some progression, perceived tensions were also prevalent among leaders, particularly between Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne during moments where the prairie province’s leader was reluctant to adopt firmer targets for his region, with Premier Wall dismissing the country’s carbon footprint.

In attendance was also Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN’s Framework  Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who piped up in response to Premier Wall. She said:

“Canada honestly can’t excuse itself of its responsibility […] Although Canada is only 2 per cent of global emissions, it is the ninth-highest emitter in the world.”

While each province in attendance offered their regional commitments, any finalized deal on a national energy strategy will have to wait on the results of Alberta’s elections next month. Alberta is responsible for 73 per cent of Canada’s GHG emission growth.

Discussions concluded with a call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to step up and deliver quantifiable targets for Canada towards UN climate negotiations, so that global leaders can move forward on an accord in Paris next December.

Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel said:

“We’re trying to work with Ottawa, but as the Americans say, it takes two to tango.”

Shortly after the Act on Climate march and immediately before inter-provincial meetings, the federal office announced it would submit national contributions to the international process before the G7 this June.


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