Although the Paris climate conference that opens Monday will not end with emissions targets enforceable by law, the talks are a chance for all countries to formally commit to reducing their ecological footprint, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Sunday.
"The agreement will be legally binding and countries will be legally bound to provide targets — the actual target will not be legally binding likely because that is a difficulty with the United States," McKenna said in Paris, where world leaders and climate negotiators from more than 190 countries begin talks on reaching a deal to slow global warming.
"And it's really important we get everyone at the table, where everyone commits to do their fair share."
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McKenna conceded that while the Liberal government has not come to Paris with targets of its own — it will stand by the targets set by the previous Harper government — she said that the Canadian delegation will reconvene 90 days after Paris to draft a made-in-Canada plan for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the French president on Sunday. Trudeau walked into Elysée Palace saying, "In Paris we walk" to President François Hollande.
At a joint news conference after a luncheon, Trudeau said in French that he was impressed with the "personal courage" the French leader has shown since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks and welcomed his "leadership on security issues throughout the world."
Collaboration with 'French cousins'
Trudeau said the two discussed a "broad range" of topics during their first bilateral meeting, including climate change, the fight against ISIS and free trade.
"I'm very pleased to be here with the president to talk about the issue of climate change, and we will be working together to ensure there is a positive outcome from these two weeks of discussions," Trudeau said, adding in French that he was proud to stand next to a leader who has such a "grand vision" for tackling the "great issue of our time."
"I look forward to many more meetings, and close collaboration, with our French cousins."
Hollande said the goal of the climate change talks will be to "unite all nations to achieve an ambitious agreement. Ambitious necessarily means binding, so obviously each country will have its own responsibility to reducing greenhouse emissions."
The French leader said they discussed a number of approaches to fighting climate change, including the creation of a carbon market.
United against terrorism 'scourge'
On the topic of international security, Hollande touted the "lasting friendship" between the two countries. "Terrorism is a threat against every country in the world. We have to unite our forces against this scourge," he said.
Trudeau joined a Quebec delegation for a visit to memorial set up outside the Bataclan concert hall for victims of the Paris attacks.
Trudeau said Canada will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Hollande against terrorism, despite his pledge to pull fighter jets back from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
"World security, terrorism issues, refugee issues and countering radicalization are the big subjects that draw us together ... Canada is pleased to be able to play a strong and positive role on the world stage now," Trudeau said.
Hollande said he wants Trudeau to visit France again, and he said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls will travel to Canada next year.
Emissions targets will not be legally binding
Trudeau said he was optimistic of a positive outcome from the climate talks despite the absence of credible emissions-cutting plans to stop global warming.
He said countries that don't make an effort to trim greenhouse gas emissions won't be looked upon kindly by their own citizens.
Participants at the UN summit, taking place from Monday to Dec. 11, are being urged to avoid repeating the failure of the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen.
France said on Saturday almost all 193 governments in attendance had outlined plans for fighting global warming beyond 2020 in a step toward resolving obstacles to an agreement at the summit.
Meeting with Ukrainian president
Trudeau also met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for a closed door bilateral meeting.
The meeting comes on the anniversary of the Holodomor, the systemic genocide of millions of Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933 by the Soviet regime.
"Canada stands firmly against Russia's ongoing military aggression in Ukraine," Trudeau said in a statement.
"We believe that, along with the international community, Canada can play an important part in bringing this conflict to an end. As a country, we also remain committed to helping rebuild the democratic, economic, and security institutions that will help Ukraine flourish once more."
India cancelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's planned meeting with Trudeau for scheduling reasons. The two leaders are expected to meet briefly Monday. Also on Monday, Trudeau plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trudeau had been expected to make a case for a comprehensive climate change agreement during his sit-down with his Indian counterpart, the leader of the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.