INTERVIEW WITH Catherine McKenna
(Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the Government of Canada)
“CLIMATE CHANGE: AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHIFT OUR ECONOMIES TO LOW CARBON PATHWAYS"
Climate Change is both a local and a global issue. This statement is clear to the Canadian Government, which played a key role in setting the historic Paris Agreement. Sustainability is a priority for Canada, which on December 9, 2016 adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a plan for an emission-less growth, as well as for adapting to a changing climate and environment. Why is it necessary for every Country to face Climate Change? What role Canada is playing? What are the main general challenges to face? How to educate people in the fight against Climate Change? Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the Government of Canada, answered to these and other questions.
Catherine McKenna was elected as the first female member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre on October 19th 2015, and appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change shortly thereafter. She helped negotiate the Paris Agreement and secured Canada’s first plan with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples to address climate change and grow a clean economy. Before entering politics, Catherine practiced competition and international trade law with leading firms in Canada and Indonesia, and was senior negotiator with the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission on the Timor Sea Treaty. She co-founded Level Justice, a charity that levels the playing field and increases access to justice for marginalized communities worldwide. Catherine is a graduate of the University of Toronto, the London School of Economics, and McGill Law School. Catherine and her husband live in Ottawa with their three children and their dog Skoki.
INTERVIEW - (November 2017)
Subject: Sustainability policies in Canada
Thanks go to Ennio Barotella and Marina Ripoli for for their help in phrasing the questions.
- In October 2017, we announced that Canada and the United Kingdom will champion a global alliance on the transition from unabated coal-fired electricity.
- While addressing climate change is an extraordinary challenge, it is also an opportunity to shift our economies to low carbon pathways, and reorient our economies towards clean growth. Countries that ignore climate change and continue with the status-quo will miss the opportunity to invest in the economy of the future.
- All countries need to transition to low-carbon, sustainable economies. Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals.
- We know there are over $20 trillion in new opportunities for investments in emerging markets between now and 2030 and governments and the financial community have collectively begun to shift investments to set the global economy on the clean-growth trajectory.
- At COP23 in Bonn, Germany, a priority for Canada will be the adoption of a gender action plan that supports women’s participation in negotiations and strengthens gender-responsive policy development under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- The Pan-Canadian Framework has four main pillars: 1) pricing carbon pollution; 2) complementary measures to further reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy; 3) measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience; 4) and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.
- Canada has a plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, and we would be happy to work with Italy on this and share our experiences, especially given Italy’s recent commitment to phase out coal.
Question 1: Dear Mrs. Catherine McKenna, thank you for being with us. Let’s start with your Country. What makes Canada a leading Country on the fight against Climate Change? Why is Climate Change such a strategic issue for your Country and why should it be a strategic issue for each Country?
Canada is unwavering in its commitment to addressing climate change at home and abroad. In December 2016, Canadian First Ministers released the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, our plan to meet our Paris Agreement commitments and grow the economy. We are moving forward quickly to implement this plan. Among many initiatives, we are accelerating the phase out of traditional coal-fired electricity across Canada by 2030. In October 2017, we announced that Canada and the United Kingdom will champion a global alliance on the transition from unabated coal-fired electricity at the United Nations climate change meetings in Bonn, Germany. We are pleased that Italy has since committed to phasing out coal by 2025, joining the growing global transition to clean energy.
Climate change is an important issue for every country because the impacts of climate change are being felt around the globe. In Canada’s North, for example, we are seeing thawing permafrost and thinning sea ice. While addressing climate change is an extraordinary challenge, it is also an opportunity to shift our economies to low carbon pathways, and reorient our economies towards clean growth. Countries that ignore climate change and continue with the status quo will miss the opportunity to invest in the economy of the future while losing their competitive position to their more efficient, cleaner peers.
Question 2: Canada has peculiar geographical, climatic, political and geo-political characteristics. Given that, what are Canada's main challenges on this issue? Are there any general key challenges every country should face when fighting against Climate Change and establishing a sustainable economy?
Canada recognizes the unique circumstances of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, and northern and remote communities including disproportionate impacts from climate change and the associated challenges with food security, emerging economies and the high costs of living and of energy. We are taking action to mitigate the effects of climate change through actions like phasing out coal-fired electricity and reducing reliance on diesel in rural and remote communities. Simultaneously, we are helping Indigenous Peoples, and vulnerable northern and coastal regions adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
All countries need to transition to low-carbon, sustainable economies. Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not incompatible goals. In fact, our future success demands that we do both. Besides phasing out coal-fired electricity, Canada is putting a price on carbon pollution and introducing complementary regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also making unprecedented investments in clean technology and innovation, and green infrastructure to support the transition to a low carbon future and grow Canada’s economy. These measures will ensure Canada will be competitive in the new global low-carbon economy.
Question 3: In November 2015, 195 countries adopted the historic Paris Agreement. Are recent geo-political events (Donald Trump anti-environmental approach, increasing global tension and protectionism etc…) weakening the Agreement? In which way are such events affecting your main international policies on Climate Change?
Since the coming into force of the Paris Agreement, global momentum for the transition to a clean growth economy is irreversible. We know there are over $20 trillion in new opportunities for investments in emerging markets between now and 2030 and governments and the financial community have collectively begun to shift investments to set the global economy on the clean-growth trajectory.
Canadian businesses are well-positioned to seize the opportunities that clean growth presents; resulting in new jobs, new technologies and less pollution. The Government of Canada is investing strategically to support growth across all sectors of the economy.
Canada is proud to continue demonstrating leadership on climate change at home and abroad. Since the last COP, Canada has announced its domestic plan – developed with the provinces and territories and in consultation with Indigenous Peoples – to meet or exceed our Paris Agreement greenhouse gas emissions reductions target of 30% below 2005 levels. Our targets are not contingent upon the rest of the world but we are committed to working all together to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Question 4: Many Countries consider Sustainability as a burden on their economic goals. Are they right?
No, the old idea that we must choose between a strong economy and a healthy environment has been proven false. The environment and the economy go together. Canada, and other nations and businesses around the world are demonstrating that doing the right thing for the environment can also be good for the bottom line.
Question 5: You are a woman. What do you think is the role of women in fighting Climate Change in developing and developed Countries?
In many parts of the world, climate change impacts often affect women differently than men. Women in developing countries tend to have fewer financial resources at their disposal than men, rely more heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods, and are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
At COP23 in Bonn, Germany, a priority for Canada will be the adoption of a gender action plan that supports women’s participation in negotiations and strengthens gender-responsive policy development under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Canada supported a regional training session for Caribbean female negotiators with the aim of strengthening the capacity of delegates to participate effectively in climate change negotiations, like COP23.
Question 6: Can you explain to us in short what are the objectives and tools of 'the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change?' It includes several challenges (Pricing carbon pollution; buildings; Clean transportation; clean electricity, Industry, Forestry and agriculture etc…). What is the most important one and on which one you are better positioned?
The objective of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate change is to reduce our emissions to meet or exceed our commitments under the Paris Agreement, build resilience to adapt to a changing climate, all while growing our economy. The Pan-Canadian Framework has four main pillars: pricing carbon pollution; complementary measures to further reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy (including in the electricity sector, transportation, the built environment, and industry, forestry, agriculture, waste); measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience; and actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.
These measures are all complementary – no one area of activity is more important than the other – and we are moving forward quickly on all aspects of our plan. In the short period since the Pan-Canadian Framework was adopted, we have been advancing major policies including taking steps to put a price on carbon pollution, committing to phase down hydrofluorocarbons by ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, accelerating the phase-out of conventional coal-fired electricity in Canada by 2030 and promoting the global phase-out of coal. We congratulate Italy and the United Kingdom for committing to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2025.
Among many of our actions, we are putting in place measures to make our buildings and vehicles more energy efficient and are creating a national zero emission vehicle strategy. We are investing in adapting to climate change, including through the $21.9 billion Green Infrastructure fund and its $2 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. We are also committing $2.65 billion in international climate finance to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Finally, we are providing more than $2.3 billion to support the development, commercialization and use of clean technology in Canada.
Question 7: Given your experience, do you think there are some margins of collaboration between Italy and Canada on this issue within a sort of cultural exchange?
Italy and Canada are longstanding partners on a variety of fronts. We are key allies on climate action and are steadfast in implementing the Paris Agreement, while maintaining global momentum. I look forward to continuing to work with Italy on climate issues, including on clean energy.
As an example, the burning of coal in particular is bad for the environment and for human health. The transition to clean energy is already under way, and the demand for global coal electricity is declining while the demand for renewable power continues to grow. Canada has a plan to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030, and we would be happy to work with Italy on this and share our experiences, especially given Italy’s recent commitment to phase out coal. Canada welcomes continued collaboration on clean technology, clean growth, and coal phase-out.
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