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Is Trudeau Style Over Substance on Climate?

Monday’s scene of co-operative politicians will certainly please Canadians.

Justin Trudeau

In Ottawa, premiers, environment ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet to talk climate change.

But the meeting’s agenda is strangely unambitious. Scientists will report that climate change is real. Then there will be discussion.

To fill the media void there might be some veiled attacks on Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a climate change laggard. Then everyone goes home.

Then, after pushing the premiers to the front of the stage, the prime minister will move to a new theatre next week – the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Paris.

At the UN talks, Trudeau will again put the premiers up front. And again, Canadians will cheer provincial-federal co-operation. But what’s Trudeau’s plan?

Unfortunately, Trudeau is going to next week’s UN conference with the same emissions plan Harper’s Conservatives filed with the UN in May. Not real change.

Even more concerning, the UN has reviewed all the national plans and given them a collective fail. According to a UN agency, these national plans won’t limit the average global temperature increase to 2.0°C, a previously agreed target.

It’s not in our environmental or national interests to adopt a weak stance at the UN conference. Laggard countries must be challenged by ambitious stances backed by real plans. If Canada and others don’t lead, the laggard countries will dictate the agenda.

But if you carefully followed the election, you won’t be surprised by Trudeau’s stance. Both Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May proposed ambitious national emissions targets and frameworks to bring to the UN conference. Mr. Trudeau wouldn’t.

Trudeau only pledged to meet with premiers.

The Liberals’ climate change strategy is to put Trudeau on a stage. And get premiers to do the actual work.

Fortunately, there is some actual work getting done. Just in recent days, Alberta and Ontario have taken positive steps toward cutting emissions.

Notley’s NDP government, elected in May, is facing a considerable challenge. Alberta’s oil and gas industry is a major emitter. And nearly 40% of its electricity comes from coal-fired generating stations.

Those challenges are thrown on top of plunging royalties and an economy left totally unprepared for an oil price collapse.

But in June, Notley appointed an expert panel led by an energy and environment economist. Panel members were trusted to develop discussion documents and lead consultations. They’ve now made public recommendations.

In Ontario, Wynne’s Liberals, re-elected last spring, released a climate change discussion paper in April. And, 10 days ago, Ontario released another paper proposing to join a cap and trade system in 2017.

Oddly, this paper was quietly released on a Friday and sent only to select business groups and reporters. No news release. Nothing posted on web sites. It’s a curious and somewhat worrying communications strategy.

Communications concerns aside, good work by premiers should to be praised. But it’s not clear all premiers will contribute to the effort. Or that their efforts will be enough.

With the goodwill of premiers and a heap of luck, Mr. Trudeau may be able to maintain the illusion of climate change leadership. But that’s far from clear, too.






[via Toronto Sun]

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