Canadian prime minister seeks to bring global agreement into force as soon as possible in bid to reverse reputation as ‘carbon bully’
April 19, 2016 — Justin Trudeau will lobby governments to approve the Paris climate agreement and bring it into force as soon as possible, reversing Canada’s past reputation as a “carbon bully”.
The Canadian prime minister will join 155 other countries at the United Nations on Friday for a symbolic signing ceremony.
Trudeau is determined to bring the deal into force – possibly as early as this year – and will lobby other governments to that end, according to Catherine McKenna, the environment and climate minister.
“We are going to do whatever we can to encourage countries to ratify,” she said.
Some 55 countries covering 55% of global emissions must formally approve or ratify the agreement before it comes into force.
Trudeau is hoping to bring the climate deal to the Canadian parliament for formal approval by the end of the year, McKenna told the Guardian.
“We are going to ratify this year,” she said in an interview. “I think it’s important to get Canadians on board, but the timeline is certainly this year.”
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, has built the 22 April signing ceremony into a key event, calculating that – once a deal had been forged in Paris last December – governments’ engagement with climate change might wane.
That strategy appeared to have paid off, with campaign groups reporting more mobilization around the Paris deal.
Obama is sending John Kerry, the secretary of state, to represent the US at the ceremony.
Negotiators feared a long time lag would compromise efforts to hold warming 2°C below pre-industrial levels, the goal of the agreement. There has already been about 1°C of warming.
“We had 195 countries come together so we want to make sure those 195 countries are staying engaged and staying committed,” McKenna said.
That sentiment is widespread. Ahead of the signing ceremony, religious leaders and institutional investors called on governments to follow through on their pledges from Paris.
On Monday, about 250 religious leaders called on countries to revisit their pledges – and take more ambitious cuts, such as the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies and the transition to 100% renewable energy.
“The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” the statement from the religious leaders said. “Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk.”
On Tuesday, institutional investors managing $24tn in assets called on leaders to move swiftly to bring the Paris agreement into force.
“Maintaining strong momentum is particularly important in the lead up to the G20 meeting in China,” Emma Herd, chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate change for Australia, said in a statement.
Since his election last year, Trudeau has shown increasing interest in the role of a global climate leader.
After coming to power last year, he moved to break with the pro-oil policies of his conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper. His government is in the midst of a six-month review of climate and energy policy.
In a visit to the White House last month, Trudeau and Barack Obama agreed to work together on a host of climate initiatives.
One of the biggest was a commitment to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful climate pollutant, from the oil and gas industry.
That meeting of minds between Trudeau and Obama has raised expectations of a North American climate alliance between the US, Canada and Mexico. “If you can mobilise Canada and the US and Mexico, that sends a strong signal to the world,” McKenna said.
On a domestic front, however, she acknowledged that Canada faced challenges.
A carbon price was a “no-brainer”, McKenna said. However, it was difficult reconciling the economic pressures on energy-producing provinces such as Alberta and Newfoundland and provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, which already have strong climate policies.