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Canada’s cleaning up its climate change act

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Just six years ago, Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol. The country also cut millions of dollars in federal funding for climate science in the Arctic and intensely pursued high carbon, oil sands development as a way of growing the economy.

Visiting Ottawa, Canada's national capital, this summer to speak with experts at the Department of Natural Resources (NRCAN) on actions they are undertaking to implement the Paris Agreement, was for me a well-needed breath of fresh air.

Under the new leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has become bolder and more engaged on environmental and social issues like climate change and gender equality.

Just one year after Trudeau’s election, Canada ratified the Paris Agreement.

The country committed to phasing out coal by 2030 and launched the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. According to NRCAN, we can expect more changes to come including a big push on electric vehicle infrastructure, energy efficiency in buildings, clean energy innovation and climate change adaptation.

In more good news, ahead of the recent North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation meeting, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Ms Chrystia Freeland called for a more progressive agreement. Canada wants to see enhanced environmental standards, including addressing climate change in the new agreement.

Montréal Meeting

Currently, Canada, China and the European Union are hosting a ministerial-level meeting on climate action in Montréal.

Pause for a moment and notice who's missing: the United States.

Canada has put a lot of diplomatic effort into creating the Ministerial for Climate Action and it is a major achievement for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. More than 25 ministers are expected to attend including from Brazil, India, France, Italy and Poland. They are convening environment ministers from around the world to demonstrate their support for global climate action and to discuss a way forward on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Similar to the Major Economies Forum (MEF), this meeting will allow high-level delegates to engage in very candid conversations on the Paris implementation. We look forward to hearing more on the outcome of this important gathering. The US is sending their G20 sherpa: it could be a forum for the US to explain what they are planning to do on climate change. Watch this space.

Canada’s growing involvement in international climate politics and climate diplomacy seems to be shaking off the negative image it once held as an environmental laggard. Canada is now bolder and more engaged in the fight against climate change. The country has a unique opportunity to build global climate ambition; a role which will certainly be tested next year at the G7 Summit in Canada.

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