The Current

Paris' key climate change pre-talks sets stage for COP 21

After a decade of being ridiculed for its dismissiveness on the environment file and called out in the years before that for stalling on its agreements, Canada has a lot riding on the Paris Minister's meetings leading up to the even bigger UN Climate Change Conference at the end of the month.
Less than a week into her new portfolio the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna has arrived in Paris ready to signal Political and Policy Change to her international counterparts. (Reuters/Chris Wattie)

U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Friday he was officially rejecting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried Canadian oil sands bitumen south through the states.

To many, killing Keystone was a sign that he means business at Paris. And that the rest of the world should too.

Starting yesterday, and going through tomorrow, environment and energy ministers from around the world have been holding meetings there in advance of the big summit. And Canada's new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, is amongst them. 

Jennifer Morgan directs the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, a global research group.  She was in Berlin, Germany.   

Climate change has the potential to make 100 million more people destitute across the world in the next 15 years, the World Bank said. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Climate change may be the most daunting challenge facing the planet today, but getting sixty independent nations to come together on a final agreement at Paris will be no small accomplishment in itself. Getting everyone on board will require a lot of backroom conversations. 

For a sense now of just what will be happening behind the scenes, we were joined now by Paul Heinbecker. He was Canada's Chief Negotiator at the 1997 Kyoto Climate Change Conference and also the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. He is now a Fellow at Laurier University's Balsillie School of International Affairs and a Distinguished Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation

The upcoming conference of the 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) will start in Paris on November 30, 2015. (Reuters/Philippe Wojazer)

The Paris climate change summit won't be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first international event — he's scheduled to attend the G20, APEC and Commonwealth leaders' gatherings first. But it will be a key test for what role his government will play on a defining issue of our time. 

He won't be alone, of course. The new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna and Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephane Dion will join him. As will some of the provincial premiers, representatives from NGOs and Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada. She joined us from our studio in Victoria, BC. 

We did reach out to the Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna for an interview today... but she was not available. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Ing Wong-Ward and Erin Pettit.