The Paris Agreement – What does it really mean for Canada? 

Image of Stephen Hazell

Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel

The Paris Agreement signed Saturday by virtually all the countries of the world is truly a major success.  Congratulations to Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment Minister McKenna for playing such a constructive role in the negotiations. But let’s also thank Louise Comeau, Steven Guilbeault, Elizabeth May and the many other environmentalists who kept hope alive–pushing for an international agreement despite 10 years of obstructionism from the previous government.

The Agreement commits governments to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. A fund of at least $100 billion to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries is established. Governments are called upon to conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases (such as forests and grasslands).Image of caribou

Implementing the Paris Agreement is a huge challenge for Canada let alone less-developed countries. In effect, implementation means that fossil fuel production would be phased out globally in the coming decades and replaced by renewable energy sources and much more efficient use of all energy supplies.

So for Canada, one question is: should any new oil, natural gas, or coal infrastructure (e.g., mines, pipelines, tanker terminals)  be approved for what are in essence sunset industries?  If Canada is serious about meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement, shouldn’t the billions of dollars needed to build the proposed Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain and Energy East projects be redirected to financing low-carbon renewable energy projects and to improving the energy efficiency of our homes, industries and vehicles?  Shouldn’t the pro-fossil fuel regulatory boards such as the National Energy Board and the offshore boards be replaced by boards with a low-carbon mandate? Shouldn’t all subsidies and export development financing to the fossil fuel industry be cancelled?  The benefits to nature of avoiding the negative impacts of fossil fuel megaprojects would be enormous.

Finally, shouldn’t all government be making every effort to protect and grow forests and grasslands, which we know are critically important sinks for greenhouse gas emissions—as well as for wildlife and nature?

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