Canada's McKenna 'thrilled' with Paris climate agreement

PARIS -- A "thrilled" Catherine McKenna said Saturday that Canadian spirit played a role in the Paris climate agreement.

"It is an incredible day today, to see 195 countries come together and reach consensus on a climate change agreement that is going to make huge changes in terms of how we tackle possibly devastating consequences on climate changes," the federal environment minister told reporters.

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"I'm really thrilled Canada was able to play an active part of it."

The agreement asks all countries to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions for the first time and limits temperature rise to two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases -- most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy -- altogether in the next half-century, scientists said.

McKenna, who had a more prominent role at the conference after being named a facilitator by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said the deal shows multilateralism works and that countries can come together for a common purpose and for the better of future generations.

"It sets the international framework," she said. 'We need to be ambitious now in Canada too.

"There were divergences of opinion but it's a Canadian spirit that we could do that (reach a deal), bring people together, to find agreement that it's important to have friendship."

Experts and environmentalists tried to inject a practical note into the celebration over the agreement, pointing out Canada still doesn't have a national emissions target.

The document doesn't set a target and Canada hasn't released one either, Conservative environment critic Ed Fast was quick to point out.

He said all "major emitters" should be consulted before the government releases its targets in an effort to avoid "massive taxes" on emissions.

"We're now seeing tens of thousands of jobs being lost in our energy sector," he said. "That will continue, going forward. It's going to take realistic, prudent policies to allow us to meet our climate change commitment, yet ensure that our economy continues to grow."

There has been concern that meeting the temperature reduction targets would prove too jarring a jolt to Alberta's petro-based economy, leading to a substantial loss in investment and jobs.

But Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who introduced her own greenhouse gas strategy last month, said she is confident the province can contribute and thrive under the targets. She said she is focusing on executing Alberta's plan and meshing it with the national framework.

"I think ultimately within the overarching federal context, our plan will be good news for Alberta and will be able to make an appropriate contribution," Notley said in Edmonton on Saturday.

The CEO of GLOBE Series, an organization that runs corporate sustainability conferences, said the Paris agreement actually opens doors for economic growth in Canada.

"We've been highly exposed to job loss because of Alberta, and the fact that our economy in Canada relies quite heavily on oil and gas revenues," Nancy Wright said in referring to the recent drop in oil prices. "By developing our clean technology sector in Canada, it helps buffer things like that."

However, Fast noted the fact remains that Canadians can't know what's coming until the federal government comes out with its plan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said his government will meet with the provinces and territories to develop emissions plans once the climate talks in Paris concluded.

Erin Flanagan, federal policy director of the environment think tank Pembina Institute, agreed that Trudeau should have a federal plan to fight climate change.

"On their own, provincial commitments will not ensure Canada does its fair share to reduce emissions," she said in a news release.

And the New Democrats said the government should "enshrine" its emissions targets in a climate accountability law, to keep the government accountable.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair tweeted his support of the pact shortly after its release.

"Excited that the world has reached a climate change pact. Canada must now move from words to action," he wrote.

With files from Nicole Thompson in Toronto


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