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Reactions to Canada's Climate Change Framework: International Leadership

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By Frédéric Gagnon-Lebrun, December 20, 2016

In December 2016, Canada's First Ministers released their Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. In this series of blog posts we break down the Framework, explaining what is proposed, what the strengths are and what challenges may lie ahead.

In this post we focus on international leadership.

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

As a global issue, tackling climate change requires international cooperation at all levels, from national governments to cities’ administrations. The Paris Agreement has enabled a new era of international cooperation on climate change, and its extremely rapid entry into force demonstrates the political buy-in achieved last year.

Canada’s commitment to multilateralism on this file is ever more critical. Along with other developed countries, it has benefited from industrialization while being responsible for significant greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions that are causing our climate to change. Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries are therefore expected to show leadership and ambition in curbing their emissions pathway. There is still much work to be done, however—even when accounting for national pledges made under the Paris Agreement, a temperature increase of 2.9℃ to 3.4℃ is expected by the end of the century. 

Developing countries have joined the Paris Agreement with another expectation—receiving financial support to make their economies more resilient to climate impacts and less carbon-intensive. Developing and least-developed countries face important challenges in fostering economic growth, while investing to reduce their emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Developed countries have an ethical duty to support developing countries and have committed to mobilize USD 100 billion per year from 2020 onwards.

HOW DOES THE PAN-CANADIAN FRAMEWORK PLAN TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM?

The Framework spells out Canada’s plan to engage internationally, by

  • Reiterating Canada’s commitment of CAD 2.65 billion by 2020 to vulnerable countries.
  • Indicating that Canada is interested in exploring ways to make use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes to comply with its 2030 mitigation target.
  • Acknowledging the important role that trade can play in support of climate policy.

WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF THE PROPOSED SOLUTIONS?

The Framework firmly reiterates Canada’s commitment to taking domestic actions and supporting developing countries in taking climate action and dealing with climate impacts. This announcement from North America is timely and welcomed as the world enters a new phase in climate diplomacy. 

Canada’s 2015 pledge on climate finance has been instrumental in building trust from developing countries in international negotiations ahead of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Many developing countries welcomed Canada’s pledge, partly because it was structured over four years, providing predictability of financing for developing countries.    

Beyond public climate finance, tackling climate change will require massive investments to flow across borders to enable the transition to low-carbon economies. In this regard, Canada’s focus on ensuring that trade rules support climate policy is noteworthy.

WHAT ARE SOME KEY ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER IN IMPLEMENTING A ROBUST POLICY?

Solidarity with developing countries must be at the heart of Canada’s international action, and Canada needs to provide clarity on how it intends to increase its international climate finance to contribute its fair share beyond 2020.

Trade can also play an important role in addressing climate change by facilitating access to sustainable solutions and good practices needed for countries to implement their commitments under the Paris Agreement. Yet the climate and trade agendas have been kept quite separate and have often focused on how they negatively impact or constrain each other. Canada, with its international partners, can play a positive role in framing these talks in a more positive light, exploring opportunities for trade rules to support climate policy and ambitious action.

Showing leadership internationally is as much about cooperating with international partners as it is about setting and meeting ambitious emission reduction targets. Canada has an opportunity to raise its climate ambition domestically, but also by using international mitigation outcomes, thereby benefiting from emissions reductions at a lower cost in other countries. The use of international mitigation outcomes to achieve Canada’s target should be considered in light of what can be reasonably achieved in Canada through investments in innovation and avoiding investments that lock in emission pathways for decades to come.  

International cooperation indeed means being accountable to the other parties to the Paris Agreement. Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments must strive to provide clear and comprehensive information on progress in both domestic actions to reduce emissions and its international climate finance commitments.

As countries are developing the accounting rules, transparency and rigour will be of utmost importance, especially around the trade of mitigation outcomes across borders. It will be important to have a robust system that avoids double counting of mitigation outcomes before trading begins.