EU, Canada need to work together to enforce Paris agreement: commissioner

The European Union's commissioner on climate action and energy is looking to Canada to help play the role of environmental enforcer as U.S. President Donald Trump's administration decides whether to bail on the Paris agreement.

Miguel Arias Canete is in Ottawa for talks with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna

European Union climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete says Canada and the EU will need to defend the Paris agreement, amid concerns that the United States will cancel its commitment to the deal. (Abdeljalil Bounhar/Associated Press)

The European Union's commissioner on climate action and energy is looking to Canada to help play the role of global environmental champion as U.S. President Donald Trump's administration decides whether to bail on the Paris climate change agreement.

"There cannot be a vacuum of leadership in climate change policy because climate change policies need leadership who show the way and who make other people move," Miguel Arias Canete, who was in Ottawa this week for meetings, told CBC's The House.

"That is the role of Canada. And the close alliance of Canada and the European Union will be very useful to maintain the spirit of Paris and support the enforcement of the Paris rules in the future. We are going to work together closely."

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to cancel the U.S. commitment to the Paris agreement — the 2015 deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions agreed to by nearly 200 countries.

Trump slightly softened that stance in November when he told the New York Times he was keeping an open mind about whether he should pull the U.S. out of the international climate change accord.

The new administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has already raised alarms by refusing to directly link human activity with global warming.

"There was a very clear leadership of President Obama, a personal involvement. … That spirit of leadership, of involvement, will probably not be the same," Canete told host Chris Hall.

Canada will meet targets: Canete

Just a few years ago, there was a far less chummy relationship between Canada and the European Union, when it threatened to label Canada's oil dirty. Since then the Liberal government has approved two pipeline projects.

"We don't continue the same policy," said Canete. "Canada and the EU are very serious about fulfilling their targets. I am absolutely convince that Canada will reduce its emissions at the levels they have commited."

Canada's targets are less ambitious than the ones the European Union has put forward. They EU has set its emission reduction target at 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, while Canada's 2030 emissions reduction target is 30 per cent below 2005 levels.

The Liberals have taken heat in Canada for using the former Conservative government's greenhouse gas targets, levels they once refereed to as the "floor." 

"There is not a prescription the same for every country," Canete said.

Canete and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who also spoke with The House, said they believe they can make a business case to the U.S. when it comes to clean energy.

"I emphasized the economic opportunity when it comes to a clear energy economy. This is about jobs," McKenna told CBC.