The House

Kathleen Wynne expects more ambitious national climate plan after Paris talks

The premiers are coming! It's been a while since the country's premiers all gathered around a table with the prime minister also in attendance. It will happen next week in Ottawa with climate change and refugees on the agenda.

Monday's meeting between PM and premiers 'sets the stage' for UN climate conference, says Wynne

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will meet with her fellow premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss climate targets ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne doesn't expect to reach a new national target for climate change at Monday's first ministers meeting in Ottawa with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but she has high hopes for what will follow at the United Nations climate talks in Paris. 

"I believe that this conference and the aftermath of the conference will lead to a more ambitious target," Wynne said in an interview on CBC Radio's The House.

"I don't think we'll get there on Monday, but I think in the aftermath of the Paris discussion, you will see more ambition on the part of the federal government, which will translate to greater ambition across the country."

Monday's meeting between the country's premiers and Trudeau comes just one week before the Paris summit, known as COP21, begins. 

The premiers agreed to attend the conference after Trudeau invited them to be part of the Canadian delegation, recognizing the leading role provinces have taken on the climate policy front over the past decade.

Wynne agrees with that assessment, saying she hopes the work that has been done by the provinces can be the "starting point" for the conversation with Trudeau on Monday — the first time in six years that a prime minister has sat down with provincial and territorial leaders.

"We believe we shouldn't have to start from scratch on Monday," she said. "There's been a lot of work done at the premiers' table, from the Canadian Energy Strategy to the declaration we signed on in Quebec in the spring. Some very practical commitments we've made are already on the table."

Among those commitments is a pledge to transition to lower carbon economies, whether that's through a carbon tax such as British Columbia's or a cap-and-trade system for Quebec and Ontario, Wynne said. 

Within 90 days of the COP21 meeting, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will sit down with the provinces and territories to set Canada's emissions targets.

Wynne said she is optimistic those numbers will be more ambitious than those of the previous government under the Conservatives.

"So far, the ambition of the federal government has just been the sum of what the provinces are doing," she said. "I think the federal government can now bring added value to this."

The defeated Conservative government of Stephen Harper has been internationally criticized for years as a climate policy laggard, but did put forward an aggressive target in May for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

However, Canada is currently not close to meeting its previous Copenhagen commitment of slashing emissions 17 per cent by 2020, and most of the reductions that have occurred came about either as a result of provincial measures or the global economic downturn of 2008-09.

Responsibility for Syrian refugees

Wynne also discussed targets of a different kind — the federal government's plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by Dec. 31.

"We need to stay with those targets. We need to make sure the security provisions are in place. I believe we can do both," she said.

"We're made up of people who came from other places, people who have come hungry, people who have come desperate for a new life. That's what defines us, that's what has made us," Wynne added.

"The reality is, we have a responsibility. We are part of this global community. I'm not undermining the importance of having these security protections in place, but I have a lot of faith in our officials to be able to do that."

Ontario has committed to resettling 10,000 Syrians by the end of 2016, promising $10.5 million in funding toward the refugee crisis. 

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