Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as Canada hosted World Environment Day for the first time, pledging Canada will continue efforts to curb global warming despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris climate accord.
Canada’s environment minister says she is “heartened” to see states, cities and companies in the U.S. support the Paris climate agreement even as Donald Trump’s White House pulls out of the global accord to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
To mark World Environment Day, which Canada hosted for the first time Monday, Catherine McKenna joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a paddle on the Niagara River, where they each underscored the country’s commitment to combat climate change and seize the opportunities they say are available in the emerging “green” economy.
“We won’t walk away from a global plan that has a realistic chance of fighting (climate change). We have a responsibility to future generations of Canadians and we will uphold it,” Trudeau told reporters in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“The better world you deserve will not come to us without a fight, but it’s a fight we’ll win because it’s a fight we have to win. And like everything Canadians do, we’re going to win it together.”
In an interview with the Star, McKenna reiterated her statement last week that she is “very disappointed” with the U.S. decision to drop out of the Paris climate agreement. The 2015 accord involves more than 190 countries that pledged to reduce emissions causing climate change, with the common goal of preventing the worst damage of a warming world.
But McKenna added that she believes Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement has galvanized others in the U.S. — such as the California and Washington state governments — to try to stick to the Paris accord. A group of state governments called the United States Climate Alliance has vowed to implement the accord in their own jurisdictions regardless of what Trump does.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Canadian companies are set to cash in on the emerging market for green energy: “We understand that this is where the future is going (JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)
“In a strange way, it’s actually made people step up and say, ‘Climate change is real. We need to be working. We need to be working together,’” McKenna said.
Under the Paris agreement, Canada has vowed to cut emissions to 30 per cent below their 2005 level by 2030. On Monday, Green party Leader Elizabeth May said in a statement that those targets are “the weakest” of any G7 country, calling them “substandard” remnants of the former Conservative government’s climate policy.
Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, was also in Niagara to mark World Environment Day. He told the Star there’s always more that Canada could do, but said he views the country as a “leader” on the environment front.
“The world has clearly closed the ranks and said we will move ahead, whatever happens in the White House,” Solheim said.
Solheim declined to comment on the Trans Mountain pipeline project, which was approved by the Liberals last year and would more than double the capacity of an existing pipeline to carry oil from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
The pipeline has become a touchstone of division since the B.C. election last month resulted in a pact between the NDP and Green parties to govern the province. The alliance has vowed to block Trans Mountain, even as the NDP government in Alberta and the Liberals in Ottawa insist it will be built.
Asked about the pipeline Monday, McKenna said the government understands it needs to move away from fossil fuel resources, but that “the transition can’t happen overnight.”
She also pointed to the measures Ottawa has pursued in its push to reduce emissions, including a promised phasing out of coal-fired energy by 2030, the pan-Canadian agreement on climate change, and putting money toward public transit and green innovation.
McKenna said Canadian companies are set to cash in on the emerging market for green energy and carbon-reducing business ventures, and that she plans to continue advocating for that industry.
“We understand that this is where the future is going,” she said.
“If the U.S. doesn’t want to take advantage, they’re going to be left behind, and we’re going to position ourselves at the front.”