Justin Trudeau promises 'Canadian approach' to climate change

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to be heading into the much-anticipated climate change talks in Paris with a lot of goodwill at the provincial and territorial level. The question now is whether he can translate that into a united front.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall urges plan that 'does no further harm'

Trudeau says provinces 'united' against climate change

8 years ago
Duration 3:13
Brad Wall urges policy that does 'no further harm' to energy sector

Justin Trudeau says he's heading into the much-anticipated climate change talks in Paris next week with a "Canadian approach" to climate change, one that recognizes the work the provinces have already done.

"It is clear that the way forward for Canada will  be in a solution that resembles Canada, that is shared values and shared desires for outcomes and different approaches to achieve those outcomes right across this great country," the prime minister said Monday evening following a four-hour working dinner with provincial and territorial leaders.

"We'll demonstrate that we are serious about climate change … This means making decisions based on science, it means reducing carbon emissions, including through carbon pricing towards a climate resilient economy. It means collaborating with our provincial and territorial partners, supporting climate change efforts in developing countries and investing in sustainable economic prosperity."

While Trudeau's enthusiasm was echoed by most of the premiers during the day, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was the go-to for a dissenting voice, noting that some 30,000 jobs have already been lost in Canada's energy sector.

The premiers take part in a family photo during a First Ministers meeting at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"So, as we prepare for Paris and to present a constructive and national front to the world, we need to be mindful of that fact, we need to work hard to ensure that we're doing no further harm to an industry that's facing great difficulty," he said. "I don't think those things are necessarily mutually exclusive."


British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said the summit was a chance to show the world what Canada has been up to.

"We're really lifting the curtain on Canada's success to show the world, and we can only do that if we have a strong voice on the international stage. So that is a big change for us," she said earlier on Monday.​

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall walks past Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he leaves a podium after commenting to media during a press conference following the First Ministers meeting at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was often criticized not only for his stance on climate change, but for his lack of engagement with premiers and territorial leaders as a whole. Harper met with them as a group only twice — the last time was about seven years ago.

"We have had a black eye for a long time on environmental issues, and we have not deserved it," Clark said.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the conference in Paris gives Canada a chance to reintroduce itself.

National strategy after Paris talks

"Our country needs a serious effort in rebranding on this theme of climate change and energy," he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, right, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne listen to a question from a student in the audience during the first session of the first ministers meeting in Ottawa on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Liberal government hasn't unveiled a national emission reduction target yet but Trudeau has said he hopes to set a more ambitious target than that proposed last spring by the Harper government: a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030.

"It's not enough to have a target but we need to have a plan to achieve that target," Trudeau said.

Trudeau added that leaders need to re-earn the trust of Canadians, highlighting the need to work with regions affected by climate change and partnering with First Nations communities in resource-rich areas. 

Monday's meeting was never expected to produce a national target on reducing emissions or carve out climate change policies. Instead, the group met to discuss a common message ahead of the Paris climate talks.

Trudeau has promised to hold another first ministers conference 90 days after the summit to work out a national climate strategy.

The premiers seemed to agree there is an advantage for Canada heading to the international climate talks with a united and common message, but stressed that can be accomplished while still embracing differences within the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears red and white maple leaf socks to his first-ever first ministers meeting on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

On Sunday, Alberta announced it would introduce a carbon tax across the board, joining British Columbia in phasing in a $30 per tonne price on carbon emissions. 

Ontario and Quebec signed on last year to a cap-and-trade system in conjunction with California.

"I'm hopeful that these policies will help us send an important message to the world next week in Paris — Canada is back," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said his province's climate change plan will come in early December, just before he heads to Paris to participate in the talks.

Before their closed-door meeting the provincial and territorial leaders were briefed by climate change scientists.

With files from the Canadian Press