Nfld. & Labrador·Analysis

G7 will look to Canada to lead on climate action — at home and abroad

With the G7 meeting in Quebec and the Paris climate agreement soon becoming operational, Canada's actions are under increased scrutiny.

More scrutiny on the country's actions with the G7 in Quebec and the Paris agreement becoming operational

A sign sits in front of the Manoir Richelieu, the site of the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, June 8, 2018. As the summit begins, international eyes are on Justin Trudeau and his climate actions at home and abroad. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

The stakes are high and the world's eyes are set on Charlevoix, Que., for the G7 summit.

Leaders from the member countries will discuss the agenda set by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this weekend. Among the key topics: climate change, clean energy and economic growth.

With such an important role comes an immense responsibility. Canada has the capacity to lead on climate change internationally but it must also lead by example at home.

Paris climate agreement soon operational

The summit comes during a critical year for climate change action — and since climate change is a global problem, it requires international co-operation.

The Paris climate change agreement, signed in 2016, is the first legally binding agreement to keep increases in the globe's temperature below 2 C. By the end of this year, the agreement will become operational, as countries will decide on the adoption of its rule book at upcoming UN climate negotiations in Poland.

A group of people protested the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Whistler on Saturday, June 2, 2018. Some climate experts see the federal government's actions on Trans Mountain as indications that Europe will have to lead on climate. (Manjula Dufresne)

In this regard, the G7 provides a unified front to accelerate co-operation on emissions reduction, climate finance and transition to a clean economy. The message that comes out of the summit will serve as an example for the meeting of the G20 countries, which account for 80 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries must maintain momentum in shifting to low-carbon energy by 2050 as stipulated in the Paris agreement, and in the context of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement and consequent isolation from the world scene, a unified G7 must reaffirm its commitment to the agreement.

One of the expectations was to confront Trump over climate change, although that was in doubt for a short while after reports that he was going to skip the climate meeting on Saturday over a Twitter spat with Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In this atmosphere of polarization and nationalism, Canada is uniquely positioned to convene international players for action on climate change and clean growth.

Canada's role in climate change and the G7

There is mounting pressure for Trudeau to deliver a solid commitment on climate change at the G7 but also on domestic politics.

So far Canada has set a precedent internationally. Last year at UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Canada launched the Power Past Coal Alliance to accelerate clean growth by phasing out coal, and it now has more than 60 members. Canada has also committed $2.65 billion by 2020 to help developing countries transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, greets U.S. President Donald Trump during the official welcoming ceremony at the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Que., on Friday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
  Despite this, climate experts like Italy's lead climate negotiator, Luca Bergamaschi, see the Trans Mountain pipeline buyout as evidence Europe will have to carry the ball on climate. Canada's actions on its own soil will be viewed as evidence of its commitment to climate change, or lack thereof.

Trudeau's government was elected under a platform that promised to balance the economy with the environment, and there has been significant progress on climate policy — particularly after 10 years of inaction and isolation. For instance, the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal Power Workers have set a precedent in Canadian policy.

However, much more work remains, and we are not moving fast enough to limit global temperature growth below 2 C and transition into a low-carbon economy by 2050.

The transition to a low-carbon economy is not just for the environment but also for the economy.

The implementation of the Paris agreement will open new markets, new jobs and new infrastructure. It is estimated that $7.7 trillion needs to be invested until 2035 in energy-efficiency initiatives and renewable energy projects to support a low-carbon transition across Asia.

For Canada, a transition to a more diverse and low carbon economy can only be done through a just and fair transition for workers, communities, indigenous peoples, businesses and civil society.

The path toward a decarbonized economy must start with people and put climate action at the forefront.


Perla Hernandez is a political science graduate student at Memorial University. Her research focuses on climate change mitigation and adaptation