Canada’s National Statement at COP24: Speech by Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna


December 12, 2018 – Katowice, Poland

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

President, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be here at COP24 in Katowice. Today is Gender Day, and I want to thank all the women leading on climate action: women from government, Indigenous leaders, business leaders, grassroots women, members of civil society. Keep it up.

We’re the first generation to broadly experience the impacts of climate change. We’re also the first generation to understand the solutions, and we’ve each committed to doing our part. And as the IPCC 1.5 degree report—which we welcome—makes clear, we are the last generation to be able to act, to be able to prevent the worst impacts. Canadians know this.

Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and causing more costly damage and greater devastation in Canadian communities.

In just the past few years, we’ve seen floods in Calgary, Toronto, the Atlantic; a heatwave killing nearly 100 people in Montréal; unprecedented forest fires throughout Canada; serious drought in Manitoba; and destructive tornadoes near my hometown in Ottawa.

We see climate change in the loss of habitat, species extinction, poor air quality, easier disease transmission, and forced migration for millions of people around the world. These impacts are very real for people. They have serious financial, health, and emotional impacts.

As our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clearly stated, as leaders, we have a great responsibility toward our citizens to take ambitious action to ensure a safer, healthier, and more prosperous future for all. We can do it, and we must do it. And Canada is already on the right track.

Working over a year with provinces and territories as well as Indigenous Peoples and with input from Canadians, we developed an ambitious made-in-Canada climate plan. Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. It is now more obvious than ever that pollution can’t be free if we want less of it. That is why we’re putting a price on pollution from coast to coast to coast. Pricing pollution is the most efficient way to reduce emissions and foster the clean innovation we need.

In fact, as we speak, I’m very proud that the Province of British Columbia is receiving an award for its climate action. BC has had a price on pollution for a decade. Its economy was one of the fastest-growing in Canada, and it has a leading clean-tech sector.

And we’re hoping Canadians adjust to the new reality of a price on pollution. It is critically important that we take a people-centred approach by ensuring that life in a low-carbon economy is affordable. Many provinces and territories have risen to the challenge of pricing pollution, but—where we have to act where provinces have not—we will implement pollution pricing and provide every adult and child a climate-action incentive that ensures that they are better off.

Pricing pollution is just one of the more than 50 measures Canada is taking at home to cut pollution. We’re also eliminating coal-fired electricity and have a target of 90 per cent renewables in our electricity sector. We’re regulating pollution from oil and gas sectors, investing in renewable energy and grid infrastructure. We’re making historic investments in public transportation and green infrastructure. We’re also investing in energy efficiencies so businesses and families can save money.

We’re working with businesses and entrepreneurs to tap into the $26 trillion global opportunity of clean technologies. This is just a few of the ways we’re preparing for the future and creating good jobs in the process.

We’re also working to increase ambition at home and abroad. That’s why we’re committed to doubling the amount of nature that we protect, which will help both mitigate and adapt to climate change. We’re also developing a zero-plastic-waste strategy, which will reduce emissions and tackle plastic pollution in our oceans and rivers.

Moreover, we can keep refining our longer-term strategy for the 25-year horizon, to reduce pollution and create clean economic growth. We have adopted a “Team Canada” style approach, which supports the ambitious actions being taken by cities, businesses, entrepreneurs, Indigenous Peoples, and young people.

Internationally, you’re all invited to the first anniversary tomorrow of Canada and the UK’s Powering Past Coal Alliance. We all know that we need to get off coal, but we have to do this in a way that supports coal workers and coal communities because the transition is not always easy.

At the centre of Canada’s clean-growth plan are people. Each and every day, as an elected representative, I need to remember who I work for: moms and dads, kids, people working hard. The action we take to tackle pollution needs to also create tangible benefits for people: new jobs today and jobs for our kids, more affordable and convenient ways of getting to work, healthier air and cleaner water, and lower costs to power and heat our homes.

Canada understands the value of multilateralism. The Paris Agreement is a perfect example of countries joining forces to take on the biggest challenge facing the international community: climate change.

Here in Katowice, we are at a turning point, and it’s critical that we keep up the momentum. Canada is determined that we’ll finalize the Paris Agreement rulebook—I’m really hoping that we don’t go overtime—that will ensure the effective, ambitious, and transparent implementation of the Paris Agreement.

I’m encouraged that all countries have come to Katowice willing to make that happen. I believe that we can leave with a rulebook that will set clear guidelines on how we can implement our plans and send clear market signals that drive clean innovation and clean growth so that we are not only creating a safer future but a more prosperous one for our kids and grandkids.

We still have a great deal of work to do to reach the consensus we need on key aspects of the rules for implementation, particularly in terms of transparency, finance, the market, and ambition.

On transparency, we support time-limited flexibility for countries that truly need it, understanding that some developing countries need capacity-building support in order to accurately and transparently report their emissions.

With respect to finance, Canada remains committed to delivering on our $2.65 billion contribution. Over $1.2 billion has been deployed to date.

With respect to market rules—one section of the Paris Agreement that I personally had the opportunity to contribute to—we must develop credible, transparent rules that will make it possible to maintain the integrity of the environment. It must be a system that countries will want to use, through the support of bilateral agreements, which means that the system must reduce transactional and financial barriers as much as possible.

In terms of ambition, “solidarity” has to be our motto. We absolutely must be able to say that countries are taking real action that, together, will serve as a reset button to establish a shared set of rules.

We know there’s much work to be done, but we are confident a consensus-based solution can be found here in Katowice. Quite frankly, we have no choice but to find solutions. Let’s do it.

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