Madrid, Spain [December 10, 2019] – A huge delegation of Canadian civil society is on the ground at UN climate negotiations in Madrid (COP25), calling on Canada to deliver ambitious climate action that improves the quality of life for people impacted by climate change and a changing economy as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson arrives in Spain.
Over 60% of Canadians voted for parties that promised more ambitious action under the Paris climate agreement in 2019 and now the Canadian government has to deliver.
Minister Wilkinson must announce how Canada will strengthen its 2030 Paris pledge and outline a schedule of interim goals that chart the path to net zero by 2050. It is not enough to talk about a long-term goal: plenty of countries and private sector actors are here in Madrid saying “net zero by 2050”, but a long-term target without a near-term plan is worth nothing.
One of the critical issues at COP25 is the ability of countries to buy and sell carbon credits, as described in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The overarching concern with Article 6 discussions is whether the mechanism will help or hurt the planet and people. Carbon trading that does not result in overall reduction of global emissions is just smoke and mirrors and closes our window to a climate safe future. Minister Wilkinson must be emphatic that there are only two options: an agreement that ensures a carbon trading system with robust environmental integrity that respects human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, or no agreement at all.
Minister Wilkinson is also being asked to recognize the growing recognition of the expansion of oil and gas as a significant, if not the biggest, barrier to a climate safe future. The UN Secretary General António Guterres opened COP25 with a statement that included a call for keeping fossil fuels in the ground. His call was reinforced by the release of the UN Environment Program Production Gap report and the Oil, Gas, and Climate report, which examine how the fossil fuel industry’s expansion plans stand in the way of effective climate action. Both reports spotlight Canada, the country with the third largest oil reserve in the world, 96% of which is in the oil sands.
The Paris agreement currently does not include means to cap the expansion of fossil fuels but Canada can change that. The Minister must signal to the world that Canada is ready to diversify its economy while deploying a robust just transition strategy that protects workers and communities.
There are more than 250 Canadians on the ground at COP25 with representatives from Indigenous communities, youth, labour, faith, health, academia, environment, industry and more. This large, diverse and active Canadian civil society delegation expects that Canada will be a leader in this international forum by negotiating strong outcomes and announcing its commitment to deliver a strengthened Paris pledge. This will not only cement Canada’s climate action plan, it will help build momentum within other OECD countries and major oil producers.
In a world gripped by devastating floods, fires, and storms, where global markets are rocked by volatility and public mobilizations swamp the streets, climate action paired with a just transition is the best way to provide security and certainty to an anxious public. In Madrid, Canadian civil society is looking to Minister Wilkinson to course correct Canada’s contribution to a climate safe future.
Catherine Abreu | Executive Director, Climate Action Network Canada
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Photo: Kamara Morozuk