First ministers' climate deal easy to mock, harder to dismiss

VANCOUVER -- If 80 per cent of life is just showing up, in politics the total is probably closer to 90.

See Full Article

Canada's first ministers emerged from two days of talks this week with an agreement on a plan to develop a framework for climate policy action.

It would be easy to mock.

But serious observers who study the difficult politics and policy of climate change believe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the provincial and territorial leaders did more than just show up at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

"Maybe the most significant thing is, for the first time since I've been premier, and for the first time in 10 years -- I guarantee -- premiers have sat around the table with the national government and talked about climate change," B.C. Premier Christy Clark said after the dust settled Thursday.

"This is not the end. I understand that. But I hope Canadians will look at it and say, they got together, they made progress, it's a start."

The 14 first ministers overcame some deep divisions over carbon pricing to find a workable solution that satisfied all parties -- at least until four working groups make public their deliberations next October.

A pan-Canadian policy plan is promised for early 2017.

It's not the shining new Canadian target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions promised by Trudeau during last fall's election campaign, nor the finished carbon blueprint that was supposed to be drafted within 90 days of the December climate summit in Paris.

But the eight-page Vancouver Declaration stuffed with common recognition of issues may just loosen the policy gridlock that's bedevilled Canadian climate action for 25 years.

"Form follows function," said Celine Bak, the whip-smart president of clean tech investment tracker Analytica Advisors.

She cited the inclusion of federal and provincial finance ministers, who will receive the report on carbon pricing mechanisms, the role of economic development ministers in clean-tech economic growth and competitiveness, and the promised public reporting of the working groups.

"It may not be obvious how well thought out this plan was," said Bak.

The plan is one part. Provincial buy-in is another.

The lubricant may be federal deficit spending.

"The federal budget is going to be a very key moment to see how much resources are put on the table," Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger told an evening panel late Thursday at the adjacent Globe clean-tech conference.

The declaration leads to next month's federal budget leads to next year's policy plan leads to next decade's carbon reductions.

The global scale, decades-long gestation period, diffuse impacts and baked-in economic underpinnings of the climate change problem all serve to make it an extremely difficult public policy issue for politicians tied to four-year electoral cycles.

As Perry Belgarde, national chief the Assembly of First Nations observed in Vancouver this week: "We have to start making decisions that will affect seven generations down the road."

Yet most of the media attention focused on the passing (and disputed) economic impacts of carbon pricing in the short term.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne appeared to set the agenda back to square one when she framed the leaders conference as a discussion over whether climate change is really a pressing policy challenge.

"If we've had the initial discussion about agreeing on what the problem is, and agreeing on the magnitude of the problem, then we'll be able to move to, 'Well, how are we actually going to do this?' " Wynne told reporters earlier this week.

But the political cajoling may obscure all that actually is happening on the climate front.

Canada recently has witnessed oil producers combining their innovation efforts under COSIA, Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, to share environmental technologies. When Alberta Premier Rachel Notely introduced a carbon tax and hard caps on oil sands emissions late last year, she was flanked by executives of four major oil companies.

Canada's stock exchanges have more clean tech companies listed on them than any other stock exchange in the world.

"We are a great mash-up here of the leadership it's going to take" to address climate change, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told the Globe delegates to open the convention, with Trudeau in attendance.

Probably the most remarkable aspect of this week's talks was the loose media access -- a stark contrast to the highly controlled events typical under the previous Harper government.

Reporters freely wandered the halls of the convention centre, mingling among premiers as they casually greeted visiting indigenous leaders. The atmosphere gave at least the appearance of candour.

Holding the first ministers meeting adjacent to the Globe clean tech conference, where some 2,000 delegates from more than 50 countries enthused about the opportunities of the coming energy revolution, also helped fan a feeling of optimism too often absent from climate negotiations.

From the indigenous leaders who were invited to speak with the first ministers on Wednesday to the environmental groups who hawkishly eyed the final communique, the refrain was the same.

It's a start. They showed up.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Donald Trump on being president: ‘I thought it would be easier’ [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is sounding wistful as he reflects on his first 100 days on the job. The president says he “loved” his “previous life. I had so many things going.” He says his new gig is “more work than in my previous life. Source
  • Canadian Forces say they want to remove 77 members for sexual misconduct

    World News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • House OKs bill averting Saturday gov't shutdown, Senate next

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- With just hours to spare, the House easily approved a short-term spending bill Friday that would prevent a partial federal shutdown over the weekend. But on President Donald Trump's 99th day in office, lawmakers were leaving for the weekend without completing two other measures he's coveted: A Republican health care overhaul and a budget financing government for the entire year. Source
  • Trump signs order to expand drilling in Arctic, Atlantic oceans

    World News CBC News
    Working to dismantle his predecessor's environmental legacy, President Donald Trump has signed an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump ordered his interior secretary to review an Obama-era plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling, with the goal of the new administration to expand operations. Source
  • Body of Sgt. Robert Dynerowicz returning to Kitchener, Ont. Friday

    Canada News CBC News
    The body of Sgt. Robert "Bobby" Dynerowicz will be returned to Kitchener, Ont. Friday afternoon. Dynerowicz died Tuesday after he was involved in an accident while riding in a light armoured vehicle during training at CFB Wainwright, Alta. Source
  • U.S. to push for tighter sanctions on North Korea at UN Security Council meeting

    World News Toronto Sun
    Turning to diplomacy after flexing military muscle, the United States will urge the U.N. Security Council on Friday to increase economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, leaning on China in particular to turn the screws on its wayward ally. Source
  • Cops: Purse saved woman shot at point-blank range

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Police say a New York City woman shot at point-blank range during a robbery was saved from a bullet wound thanks to her purse. The New York Police Department says a 52-year-old man ran up to his intended victim on a Brooklyn street early Wednesday morning and demanded her car keys. Source
  • Forces seek to oust 77 members for sexual misconduct

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • Forces seeking ouster of 77 for sexual misconduct

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Military officials say they have moved this year to force out 77 service members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Many of the cases are older and none of the members have been released yet, as their files go through what the military says is due process. Source
  • Trump: ‘I thought it would be easier’ [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is sounding wistful as he reflects on his first 100 days on the job. The president says he “loved” his “previous life. I had so many things going.” He says his new gig is “more work than in my previous life. Source