Canada Before and After the Paris Climate Conference

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Before looking forward to upcoming events in Paris, we think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the tragedy that struck Paris last week. We extend our sincerest condolences to those who have suffered the loss of loved ones in the recent attacks on the French capital and elsewhere. Our thoughts are with those who are rebuilding their lives in its wake.

It is exciting times on the climate policy front in Canada. The recent federal election, climate plan processes underway in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, and the upcoming UN climate conference (COP21) in Paris in December are creating a confluence of interest around our climate policy future.

We are likely to see a more engaged and committed Canada at the UN conference than we have seen for many years. However, while the outcomes of Paris are important, the real legwork for Canada will come afterwards, as Canada leverages those outcomes to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions.

New government refreshes environmental agenda

The federal commitment to climate change was made explicit by the appointment of Catherine McKenna to the newly-expanded role of Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. Her chief of staff is Marlo Raynolds, former Executive Director of the Pembina Institute. The Liberals have committed to investing $300m annually in clean technology, to supporting more green jobs, and to strengthening the environmental review process. They have also expressed interest in reviving North American collaboration on climate change, and, closer to home, partnering with provincial governments to coordinate carbon pricing and regulation. Trudeau will hold a first ministers meeting within 90 days of COP to discuss provincial-federal collaboration, and nearly all premiers are expected to attend the Paris talks with the new Prime Minister.

A new tone set, but what song will we sing?

The federal government’s emphasis on partnership and collaboration signals an important change of tone for Canada. According to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, province-specific carbon pricing is a more practical way to achieve emissions reductions, and Trudeau’s proposed provincial-federal partnership on carbon regulation will build on that strategy. The question remains as to how the Liberals will execute; given the range of approaches and levels of ambition within provinces, it may be easier said than done. Jurisdiction-specific programs with overarching federal principles and aligned mechanisms (such as a minimum carbon price or a national offset system) could be a path forward. Internationally, the federal government’s investment in international cooperation in Paris could lead to bi- and multi-lateral partnerships in the future. Trudeau is already expected to go for a state visit to Washington before the end of the year.

All eyes on Paris, and beyond

Given the compressed time period between the federal election and COP21, we are unlikely to see major policy shifts ahead of Paris. Trudeau has said he is prepared to revisit Canada’s current post-2020 climate target but will not modify Canada’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which represents the country’s post-2020 carbon reduction target and was submitted to the UNFCC in May 2015. The current INDC is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, which is generally aligned with provincial goals and major partners like the US. While INDCs are important indications of where countries stand in terms of their climate commitments, they can certainly change or be affected by the outcomes of the Paris conference.

There are a few key areas to watch after Paris:

Region Area Questions
Canada Federal Climate Strategy
  • How will the government support provinces that do not have carbon pricing and/or regulations in place?
  • How will they coordinate between provinces with very different emissions reductions goals, not to mention different carbon pricing systems to achieve those goals?
Provincial Climate Plans
  • Will Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia serve as templates for other provinces to follow, or will we see different carbon pricing regimes emerge?
  • How will they achieve the targets they have already set out, and will they make more ambitious goals after Paris?
Harnessing Innovation
  • How will the Liberals choose to invest the millions they committed to clean technology and innovation?
  • Will it help Canada build a more diverse economy?
Global Climate Agreement
  • What will be agreed in Paris and how will it be implemented?
New Avenues for Action
  • The G7 has committed to decarbonize within the century, which international fora and partnerships (G20, Regional trade blocs, IMF or World Bank members) will follow suit?
Other actors getting involved

The new Canadian government has signalled their intention to lead on climate change, both at home and internationally. Engagement by citizens, NGOs, provincial and regional governments and business will be important in continuing to push the envelope on climate issues and keeping the government accountable. One opportunity to engage is the GLOBE2016 conference in March, where international organizations, policy leaders, and business executives can network, partner, and advance concrete climate action commitments and opportunities. While we may be focusing our energy on the road to Paris today, the road from Paris is going to be just as, if not more, important.

Contributors: 
Ingrid Hoffmann –  Policy Analyst (ihoffmann@delphi.ca)
Jessica Butts – Consultant, Policy Lead (jbutts@delphi.ca)

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