Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement, Nov. 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of Presidencia de la República Mexicana, Wikimedia Commons

Paris climate deal can go further, proponents say

  • October 10, 2016

OTTAWA – Groups concerned about man-made climate change are applauding Canada’s ratification of the Paris climate accord Oct. 5.

“We’re quite happy with the ratification of the Paris agreement and the fact the Paris agreement is entering into force at the same time,” said Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace advocacy and research officer Geneviève Talbot.

“This is all very good news and we’re going to continue to push for more so we can see real meaningful action to address climate change and support the well-being of Canadians across the country,” said Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) senior policy analyst Karri-Munn Venn.

“It was pretty fast for an international agreement to have enough ratifications,” Talbot said, noting the other condition was for the countries to represent 55 per cent of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs).

However, both groups see much room for improvement.

“It is a first step and it has to be seen as a first step,” Talbot said.

The targets are the same as the previous Harper government’s, but she pointed out the Trudeau government has said these targets are “not a ceiling but a floor.”

“We want to make sure they ratchet up the targets,” she said.

Meanwhile, the agreement came under attack from one of Canada’s leading experts on international affairs.

Michael Hart, author of Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change, says climate will change regardless of what humans do or not do and money is best invested in mitigating climate effects rather than trying to prevent CO2 emissions.

“The Paris agreement is a classic example of what governments do when they want to be seen to be doing something,” said Hart, professor emeritus of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He described the agreement as “big on hype,” with obligations put off “far into the future, long beyond anybody’s political life” and “voluntary.”

“That’s the nature of any of these environmental agreements,” he said. “They are happy to talk for the benefit of people, but the delivery will be anemic.”

Hart, who participated in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in the early 1990s, pointed out a number of scientists who have done the climate change computer modeling say if “every aspect of the Paris agreement is fully implemented over 30 years, it would make at best a .02 degrees Celsius difference, and that is only if you believe the UN and all the alarmist scientists have a firm fix on how the climate behaves, which of course is nonsense.”

While supporting the accord, one of Talbot’s concerns is a lack of consistency in the government’s approach to energy use. “Their position on pipelines is not that clear and as well, the fact they approved the LNG (liquid natural gas) port in British Columbia is quite controversial,” she said.

Development and Peace’s fall campaign, At the Heart of the Action, focuses on mitigating the effects of climate change through support of people in the Global South most adversely affected.

“Agricultural must be at the heart of climate change solutions,” the campaign stresses, urging international investments to recognize the role of small family farming “in struggle against climate change and hunger,” the development of local farmers’ markets and consultations with small farmers regarding any decisions affecting them.

Talbot noted Canada committed $2.65 billion by 2020 to support those affected, but “we still have no clue” on how or where that money will be spent.

Munn-Venn said CPJ has recommended a “suite of policies” to the Environment Minister relating to reductions in GHGs, investments in renewable energy and support for those most impacted by climate change. Included are those in the oil and gas sector who may need retraining or assistance to find work elsewhere, like in renewable energy.

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