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New tone by Canada and Alberta noticed at COP21 climate talks

Canada has changed its tone at the Paris climate talks and everyone from environmental groups to the International Energy Agency is taking note.

New federal and provincial leaders bring different approach to conference

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fourth from right, is surrounded by other members of the Canadian delegation, including premiers and cabinet ministers. (Twitter: @justintrudeau)

They didn't steal headlines the way that U.S. President Barack Obama did with his opening speech, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley were able to garner some international attention with Canada's new tone at the UN climate conference in Paris.

Trudeau, flanked by several premiers and federal ministers, repeated the phrase "Canada is back," while also announcing a five-point plan to address climate change.

The ground has fundamentally shifted.- Tyler Bryant, IEA

"Certainly it is really good news and getting really positive signals from the Canadians," said Liz Gallagher, with the U.K. environmental group E3G, during a press conference in Paris today with international media. 

Trudeau spoke about the five ways Canada will act to address climate change:

  • Commit to science-based decision-making.
  • Introduce policies to develop a low-carbon economy including a national price on carbon pollution.
  • Work with municipal, provincial and indigenous leaders.
  • Assist the developing world with financing for climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • View climate change as an opportunity to build a more innovative, clean economy.

"I speak to delegations from other countries," said Amin Asadollahi, with the Pembina Institude, an Alberta-based environmental think-tank. "Over and over I hear the same thing, it's so good to have Canada back."

The reaction from officials at the UN climate conference comes with a caveat, they are still wanting to know what climate plan and targets the new Canadian government will come up in the coming months. Currently, the Canadian delegation is using targets and policies developed by the former Conservative government.

"The commitments Canada made at the Paris climate talks confirm something the world has seen hints of since October — that Canada has returned to the world stage and can play a leading role in the fight against climate change," said WWF international director general Marco Lambertini. 

Alberta is also a topic of conversation with its new climate policy. The plan includes a carbon tax, a cap on oilsands emissions and an accelerated phasing out of coal-fired electricity.

"The ground has fundamentally shifted," said Tyler Bryant, with the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

"A significant fossil-fuel producing jurisdiction has imposed a carbon tax and has capped total emissions from [the oilsands], which I believe is a first for a major net fossil fuel energy exporter." 
Liz Gallagher, of the U.K. environmental group E3G, spoke highly of Canada's delegation during a press conference in Paris at the UN climate conference. (UNFCCC)
 

Notley is not only hoping to make an impression with foreign delegates, but also with other premiers who made the trip to Paris. Alberta's premier told reporters Tuesday she has made it clear to her counterparts that new pipelines are needed in Canada to export Alberta oil. With a new climate plan, she expects it will help alleviate concerns about the greenhouse gases produced by the province's oilsands.

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