Environment & Energy Report

Canada Climate Chief Calls U.S. Stance ‘Unfortunate’

Dec. 12, 2018, 6:24 PM

Canada will welcome a U.N. report on the dire consequences of a warming planet—rebuking the Trump administration—as part of international climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland, the country’s environment minister told Bloomberg Environment Dec. 12.

U.S. officials joined with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait on Dec. 8 in rejecting language at the talks welcoming the U.N.'s science indicating catastrophic consequences if immediate action is not taken to address climate change.

“I think that was unfortunate,” Catherine McKenna, the Canadian minister of environment and climate change, said of the U.S. position. “Canada certainly welcomed the report. As we make decisions, we need good science and we need to be listening to scientists.”

Climate Urgency

The report, published in October, showed that countries have less than 12 years to drastically reduce greenhouse gases to avoid the worst climate impacts and keep global average temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Negotiations at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change aim to establish rules for putting into action the 2015 Paris climate agreement on reducing carbon emissions and generating confidence among countries for deeper pollution cuts.

The Trump administration, which has maintained its support for fossil fuels, has distanced itself from federal government and U.N. reports warning of rising sea levels, extreme weather, drought, and other cataclysmic events caused by a rapidly changing climate.

The reports say that drawing down fossil fuel consumption is an increasingly necessary action to minimize or avoid these outcomes.

U.S. Position ‘Clear’

“The Trump administration has made its position clear,” McKenna said, adding that U.S. negotiators are nonetheless “engaging constructively” in the climate talks.

McKenna said the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement was the impetus for a Canadian alliance with the European Union and China to commit to greater carbon cuts under the deal.

“When the U.S. stepped back on climate action on the Paris agreement when the Trump administration came in, it was very apparent to me that Canada was going to have to step up,” McKenna said. “If we can find commonalities, if we can find solutions, that’s very powerful, because China works very closely with developing countries.”

More Carbon Cuts

McKenna touted the country’s climate plan and said countries need to be more ambitious about carbon cuts to thwart warming temperatures, but she declined to say how Canada will boost its commitment to to further reducing its greenhouse gases.

She said she supports Poland’s push for “just transition,” a political effort to support workers and communities whose jobs and human rights may be affected by the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one that relies on renewable energy.

When asked how that applies to the Canadian oil sands, one of the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna said “our focus is on coal.”

“We’re still going to be using oil and gas for decades into the future,” McKenna said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bobby Magill at bmagill@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Susan Bruninga at sbruninga@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com

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