Paris climate talks should include a legally binding treaty: May (video)

November 29, 2015

Publication source: The West Block

The treaty that comes out of the Paris climate change conference will likely be legally binding, predicted Elizabeth May this weekend, but it is unlikely to contain greenhouse gas reduction targets for individual countries.

May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party since 2006, told The West Block‘s Tom Clark that she realizes that the legalities of the treaty are confusing for the average person, but the central goal is — as always — to slow the planet’s current warming trend.

“We can’t stop climate change once we’ve unleashed it,” May said as she sipped coffee with Clark at an outdoor cafe in Paris.

“What we’re really trying to do at this conference is ensure that the level of change induced by human activity is held at a level that allows us to respond, adapt, survive.”

Such a pragmatic approach is perhaps surprising coming from a climate crusader like May, but she said she is remaining realistic given how difficult it has been to reach targets set in the past.

“This negotiation definitely has to include all nations,” May said, adding that it will be up to each country to then embed hard targets in its domestic legislation. China, India and other developing nations won’t pull their weight if developed nations don’t, May explained.

“We’re like a bunch of people in a rowboat. We’re trying to make it to shore and we have to keep bailing. And nobody can afford to stop bailing, nobody can afford to stop pulling on those oars. We’re all in this together.”

And what of the countries that simply refuse to meet targets, or commit to reducing emissions only to backtrack?

“What we have to hope … is that world leaders and governments recognize that climate change is a bigger threat to their future, to their economies, to their civilizations, to our societies, than terrorism — a bigger threat than anything other than global nuclear war,” May said.

“We need to reduce more and we need to reduce faster than anything that’s on the table right now.”

Given the stakes, she added, it’s time for Canada to “return to our usual role” in pushing for the strongest possible treaty.

May has attended climate conferences all over the globe in recent years, but was excluded from the Canadian delegations under the previous Conservative government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, conversely, invited all premiers and leaders of the opposition parties to join him in the French capital for the conference, which begins on Nov. 30.