October 23, 2015
By Bruce Cheadle
OTTAWA — Canada’s “fair share” in the global effort to combat climate change includes slashing greenhouse gas emissions by one third over the next decade and sending $4 billion a year to help poorer countries, Climate Action Network Canada said Friday.
The startling appeal comes out of a meeting of developing countries this week in Bonn, Germany, ahead of a United Nations climate summit later this year in Paris.
And it lands as a massive category 5 hurricane, packing historically unprecedented winds up to 325 kilometres per hour, bears down on Mexico in a terrifying illustration of the current reality of climate change impacts.
Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau is promising a “strong position for Canada” and has invited all the premiers to the UN climate summit COP21 scheduled to begin Nov. 30 in Paris. But the lead-up negotiations among almost 200 international partners suggest there is still a long way to go in hammering out a global consensus on the path forward.
Pre-summit negotiations wrapped up in Germany on Friday amid acrimony over proposed changes to climate financing models agreed to at the last major climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. There’s a new draft text for Paris, but negotiators now say it will take political will from national leaders or their ministers to bridge the remaining gaps.
The G77 plus China, a bloc of 134 developing nations, was incensed over the climate financing proposals and talk of sidelining “loss and damage” provisions from the main Paris agreement.
“It’s a matter of life and death, so we’re dead serious about it,” said Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, the chairwoman of the G77 and South Africa’s climate envoy, noting climate change “poses an existential risk” to many developing nations.
Recent hurricanes that hit the Philippines and Dominica set those countries back “decades,” Mxakato-Diseko said at a news conference in Bonn on Thursday.
American meteorologists are warning of a “potentially catastrophic landfall” as hurricane Patricia slams into southwestern Mexico late Friday, including tourist meccas Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.
Under previous international agreements, Canada has provided $1.2 billion in total to support climate change action in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Three quarters of that funding was in the form of loans, however, and Louise Comeau of Climate Action Network Canada says new funding ideally should not burden developing countries.
“While we prefer grants and worry about loans adding debt to developing country loads, I think we can be somewhat open about how this could occur,” Comeau said in an email.
“The aim here is to bring to the conversation the scale of what’s considered fair. We can then explore how best to get there.”
The eye-popping $4 billion annual figure for Canada is not new, but with a new Liberal government in office in Ottawa and Trudeau’s talk of greater Canadian ambition on climate action, expectations have been raised.
Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University, said expectations for the Paris conference are becoming over-inflated.
“There is no way that rich countries can get their voters to agree to the kinds of transfers that people are talking about,” said Jaccard.
But after years of criticizing the Harper government’s environmental record while helping lower orders of government develop policy in a “difficult policy realm,” Jaccard said he’s going to cut Trudeau’s Liberals some slack — “at least for a while.”
Chris Ragan, the chair of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, said in an interview the real work for the new Liberal majority begins after the December conference.
“Whatever takes place in Paris … ultimately the challenge is you come back home and try to put a policy in place,” said Ragan, an economist at McGill University in Montreal.
“We haven’t even seen the sketch of policy details from this government, but what we have heard is that (Trudeau) takes the issue seriously and wants to work constructively with the provinces on a path forward,” he said.
For Ragan, that’s “probably a pretty good sign.”