Canada invited to facilitate climate talks for 1st time in a decade

France's foreign minister has invited Canada to help facilitate the final, crucial negotiations on a climate change deal this week, a request that hasn't come Canada's way for a decade.

Countries' ministers to hash out final emissions deal from complicated draft document

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, seen at a conference in Ottawa last month, says she's 'honoured' to be asked to help facilitate the final stage of Paris climate change talks. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The French foreign minister has invited Canada to help facilitate the final, crucial negotiations on a global climate change deal this week, a request that hasn't come Canada's way for a decade.

Laurent Fabius tasked 14 ministers from around the world with helping him smooth this week's ministerial talks, including Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who arrived in Paris on Sunday. Her exact role, said a release, "will be set out on Monday."

Ministers have begun arriving to begin what will surely be difficult negotiations to try to come up with a deal to limit global warming and reduce carbon emissions worldwide.

They will be tackling a draft document prepared by negotiators that is far longer and contains more options than most would have liked.

Laurent Fabius has asked 14 ministers from around the world to help him smooth this week's Paris ministerial talks. (Anadolu Agency/AP)

Also Sunday, in comments made at one session, McKenna said Canada supports including a reference in the text of the final deal to a more ambitious, long-term limit to global warming. 

Observers say it's the first time Canada has publicly articulated a specific position on the issue since climate change talks started. And that is an indication, insiders say, that Canada's exact position on some of these questions was still being formulated following the October federal election.

The draft document currently includes 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius as options contained in brackets. There is no consensus yet on which should remain in the final agreement.

Low-lying countries already vulnerable to the impact of climate change and many activists have been calling on developed nations to support their call for a 1.5 C limit.

McKenna told fellow ministers Canada supports including a reference "to the recognition of the need to strive to limit global warming to 1.5," as some other countries have said.

The position appears to echo that of Australia, which said last week it would back the inclusion in the text of a reference to 1.5 degrees as a goal, but its formal target would remain at 2 C.

Promise falls short

Such a promise falls short of addressing all the concerns of vulnerable countries as it does not indicate that signatories would immediately implement measures to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 C, but rather sees it as a long-term goal.

Still, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is here as a member of the Canadian delegation, welcomed the minister's statement, which also backed an agreement with a legally binding requirement that every country submit targets, report progress on those targets and improve them regularly.

"The whole question of a long-term goals is so critical," she said.

McKenna told CBC News she was "honoured" to be asked to help facilitate the deal.

"Work is progressing well, though much remains to be done to finalize the text," she said.

"Like me, ministers from other countries are now fully engaged in this next crucial step."

Canada also announced a $50-million investment in a G7 insurance fund to help compensate countries that experience more intense catastrophes related to climate change.

John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto, tweeted that it was a good start, but "our neighbours in [the] Caribbean need more," as do many African countries, he added.


Nahlah Ayed

Host of CBC Ideas

Nahlah Ayed is the host of the nightly CBC Radio program Ideas. A veteran of foreign reportage, she's spent nearly a decade covering major world events from London, and another decade covering upheaval across the Middle East. Ayed was previously a parliamentary reporter for The Canadian Press.