The House

Elizabeth May: climate deal 'gives us a chance to save ourselves'

The Green Party leader joins us from New York City, where she attended the signing ceremony for the UN's landmark Paris climate deal, to discuss what the next steps should be for Canada.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, seen days before the Paris conference, was party of the Canadian delegation after needing to seek out other countries to attend in previous years. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

From making promises in Paris to signing agreements in New York this week, what's the status of the landmark UN climate deal — and how quickly can we expect to see action from Canada?

"This is by no means the treaty that saves us," Green Party Leader Elizabeth May tells The House.

"This is the treaty that gives us a chance to save ourselves."

And Canada has a big role to play as potential saviour, she added.

"The world does care what Canada does, and how we use our influence globally. It matters that Canada is pushing for a more ambitious treaty."

But despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's willingness to "take the issue seriously", May said there is still lots of work to be done — and she plans to hold the government to account.

"The reality is that the totality of global commitments go way past two degrees and are in the level of climate catastrophe, and Canada's target is among the weakest. We have to replace our target with a tougher one, and soon."

The broad goal of the Paris climate agreement is to keep global temperatures from rising less than 2 C from pre-industrial levels, in an effort to stave off the most catastrophic effects of rising sea levels.

The Canadian government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 — a goal set by the previous Conservative government. 

'The writing is on the wall'

The Trudeau government has said this objective is a "floor" rather than a "ceiling" for what can be accomplished. but has not issued any new targets of their own.

May said that needs to change, and that the government doesn't necessarily need to wait until reaching an accord with the provinces. 

"I believe we're losing precious time [by not] putting a target that's consistent with our goal of avoiding climate catastrophe," she said.

"We should be replacing our own target while negotiating with the provinces."

May was also clear on where she thinks Canada's energy and environment goals are headed in the future.

"The writing is on the wall quite clearly — we're moving off fossil fuels," she said. "It's a whole economy transition."

May said she believes Canada can achieve the ambitious overarching goals of the Paris climate plan, but with a caveat.

"It's actually quite plausible for Canada, even leaving the level of oil sands production as it is. But you can't reconcile meeting 1.5 degrees Celsius as a goal and expanding the oil sands at the same time."


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