Canada: the End of a Fossil-Filled Era?

21 October 2015

Seasoned negotiators among you will recall that there was a time when Canada was not a shoe-in for the Fossil of the Year awards. While never perfect, Canada once had a reputation for punching above its weight when it came to the climate talks—a reputation that began to fracture in Nairobi, was crumbling by Bali, and a distant memory by the time Copenhagen rolled around.

Even bad things must come to an end.  In a dramatic election yesterday, Canada threw out the near-decade long rule of climate laggard Stephen Harper. Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has his work cut out for him. To be sure, his party’s election platform pushed some of the right buttons: promising to contribute Canada’s fair share to keep the world below 2°C; working with the premiers of Canada’s provinces to come up with a new INDC target and a strategy to meet it (within 90 days after Paris); phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and investing $2bn in green infrastructure.

Sounds great, eh? Not so fast. ECO’s Ottawa correspondents report that Trudeau also talks about building new tar sands pipelines to get Canada’s dirty oil to market. It seems Trudeau is not yet the boldest when it comes to making the tough calls on Canada’s carbon bomb, the tar sands. However Paris might just be the push he needs to tell the world that his parliament will be stepping up to do Canada’s fair share in tackling the climate crisis.

Trudeau must come to Paris with a firm commitment to enshrine 2025 and 2030 targets in domestic law. These targets should include phasing out dirty energy and phasing in 100% renewable energy by 2050. They should also include providing Canada’s fair share of international finance.

The process must start with a meeting between Trudeau and the provinces’ premiers before they all leave for Paris. Then we can truly and loudly say in Paris: Welcome back, Canada!

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