Ottawa Citizen: Trudeau must step up on climate change at G20 summit

Elizabeth May

Recent media coverage in advance of the G20 summit in Hamburg has set the stage for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press for climate action. In comparing Trudeau’s support for the Paris Agreement to the Trump administration’s “exit” from the Paris Agreement, it is possible to associate the word “leadership” with Canada’s climate policies.

However, it is only in comparison with Trump that our policies look at all progressive. In fact, Trudeau will need to commit to far more than anything currently planned domestically for Canada to hold its head high in the company of the European nations, or even China.

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken Trump on most directly with an English-language social media campaign: “Make our Planet Great Again.” Macron heads to Hamburg calling for much more aggressive climate action from all G20 nations.

G20 host and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is committed to pressing Trump, and isolating him, if need be. German media sources maintain that Trudeau advised to take Paris Agreement references out of the G20 declaration. Trudeau has categorically denied this. I was enormously relieved to hear the prime minister commit to pushing for strong language in support of the Paris Agreement in the final G20 communiqué.

I did not see any coverage in Canada, but that is perhaps because among the dozens of signatories, none was Canadian. Nevertheless, every Canadian should read this call to action and explanation of why we only have until 2020 to put the planet on track to meet the Paris targets.

Forget the political bickering. The reality is mathematical. We have a global carbon budget. To avoid blowing past the targets of the Paris Agreement in the next four years, the G20 nations need to set far more aggressive targets.

This is the reality that is so often lacking in our public discourse about the Paris Agreement targets. Our current domestic target – the one left behind by Stephen Harper and now endorsed by Trudeau – is incompatible with the agreement negotiated in Paris in December 2015. Crunch the numbers and it is clear. We need a far more aggressive target domestically. Ours is one of the weakest in the world. And just as we need a more ambitious target, so too do the other nations that are already miles ahead of us.

The key message from “Three years to safeguard our climate” is that, while the full range of actions to ensure a liveable world will take decades, the next four years are critical. On current political commitments from those countries that claim a commitment to avoiding more than 1.5 degrees of warming – which is the Paris target – we will fail. And failure is not political or theoretical; it is apocalyptic.

So if Trudeau is interested in showing leadership in Hamburg, he must go to the gathering prepared to announce that Canada is committed to ratcheting up our climate commitments. The Harper target of 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels by 2030 must be advanced to Canada reaching 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Let’s emulate the state of Hawaii and pass binding targets with legislated reporting on progress. Let’s accelerate plans to decarbonize our electricity sector and expand electric vehicle infrastructure, protect our forests and move to improve energy efficiency of our built infrastructure.

Let’s press other nations to do the same. Anything less is achieving climate rhetoric at the expense of climate action.

Article originally published by the Ottawa Citizen here.