Speech for the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Appearance at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras


Thank you. Merci.

Good morning everyone.

I’m delighted to be here in Chennai.

Ahead of the G20 ministerial meeting, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to speak with you here at IIT Madras.

What an incredible hub of brilliance.

I am looking forward to touring India’s leading engineering university today.

Canada is privileged to have such a large Indian diaspora.

We are grateful for the Indo-Canadian relations.

We have a dynamic Indo-Canadian community with exceptionally strong people-to-people ties and in all places within Canadian society, including within the government.

Canada and India enjoy a strong shared tradition of democracy and pluralism and a common commitment to a rules-based international system and multilateralism.

And the education links that we share with India are rare among countries that do not share a common border.

I’d like to take this opportunity to express my immense gratitude for India’s support during COP15 in Montréal when we achieved the historic adoption of the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework.

Canada is ready to strengthen our partnership with India, because together we can achieve mutual goals that benefit both our countries and the people we represent.

As G20 President, India is bringing the world together in difficult and uncertain times. And this year’s President is putting together an ambitious agenda.

Prioritizing critical issues of concern to both Canada and India.

In particular, issues corresponding to global threats impacting our citizens, from climate change to biodiversity loss and land degradation, blue economy, water resource management and resource efficiency, and circular economy.

And Canada is here to support that agenda.

In 2009, I was the head of the environmental organization Équiterre in Canada.

I was part of those groups that, in 2009, welcomed two global commitments that made the headlines.

The commitment to deliver US$100 billion annually to the Global South through climate finance by 2020 and the commitment to end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies within the G20.

The G7 subsequently strengthened this commitment by setting a 2025 deadline.

Every year since 2009, we’ve kept reminding ourselves of the urgency to meet these pledges, and somehow, we have always ended up postponing these efforts, with little progress to report.

When I became Minister of Environment and Climate Change, many told me that these finance files were impossible ones—highly contentious and difficult to land.

Today, in 2023, ahead of the G20 climate and environment ministers meeting, I am proud to say that Canada is delivering on these two longstanding pledges.

First, I am confident that the developed countries will be able to demonstrate that we will reach the US$100 billion goal in 2023.

And just days ago, to reinforce this, Canada pledged $450 million to the Green Climate Fund second replenishment, which is an increase of 50 percent.

We encourage other developed countries to do the same.

Second, Canada will end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies in 2023, two years ahead of schedule.

Our message is simple: we came to India and to the G20 to demonstrate our willingness to accelerate the delivery of these urgent priorities, of concern to all of us.

I understand that many of you here at IIT Madras are doing groundbreaking work on many of these very issues.

Your work is of the highest importance today because the technologies you develop are central to helping Canada, India, and the world to face the impacts of a warming planet, and at the same time, contribute to building a more prosperous, sustainable and nature-positive future.  

When I look around this room, I see the knowledge, skills, and passion needed to meet this moment.

The impacts of this climate crisis are accelerating and becoming more aggressive, and more costly to all life on this planet.

We’ve been living it this summer.

The sweltering heat enveloping our planet is continuing to break record after record.

There’s also the torrential rain, severe flooding, and landslides, which are happening more frequently.

In Canada, we’ve been facing historic wildfires from coast to coast to coast.

India, Canada, we are all seeing climate change manifest differently. But we are all living the impacts.

You can’t look at these ongoing weather extremes and say climate change can wait.

It can’t.

Science is clear that we all need to do more to address climate change, on a faster timeline.

Allow me to share my vision for the kind of cooperation we need to work on.

First, as part of our efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to come together to scale up clean energy.

That’s why Canada supports a global target to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030, as well as increase the production of hydrogen and other clean energy sources.

Second, we need to continue working towards phasing out emissions from unabated coal power by 2030 in developed countries and by 2040 in the rest of the world.

As long as we are building new unabated coal plants, we are not on track to meet 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Third, we must accelerate the phase-out of unabated fossil fuels alongside phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

We made progress at the G7 in Japan where we collectively agreed to phase out unabated fossil fuels.  

I want to work with everyone to make COP28 the moment where the world comes together to agree on an agenda for the phasing out of unabated fossil fuels.

Canada is a major oil and gas producing nation, and we have a responsibility to do more.

We are having tough discussions at home, and we know you are, too.

We just released our inefficient fossil fuel subsidies assessment framework and guidelines.

And at the same time, we have made energy transition a cornerstone of our climate finance, including $1 billion to the Climate Investment Funds to accelerate coal phase-out and advance clean energy.

Here in India, the renewable energy potential is massive.

And India has already been making important strides.

India has set an ambitious target—that 50 percent of its power grid will be generated from renewable sources by 2030.

This includes a commitment by Prime Minister Modi to install 500 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity—a commitment that will reduce 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.

As a large economy with over 1.3 billion people, India has embraced climate adaptation and mitigation ambitions that are transformational not just for India but for the entire planet.

India’s rate of expansion to renewable energy is laudable. It is already one of the fastest in the world.

The world and Canada can learn from India.

But even with the best technology, this scale of climate action requires resources.

I am grateful to India, which, as part of its G20 Presidency, has played a leadership role in bringing the concerns of developing countries to the table.

Canada wants to support India’s efforts to use this platform, and to reassure developing countries that we will meet their expectations for climate finance.

Canada heard Prime Minister Modi’s call this June to G7 nations to keep their unfulfilled promise.

And we are committed to doing our part.

We are implementing our $5.3 billion climate finance commitment.

We are supporting the Green Climate Fund’s projects in India, like the $200 million stake in the “India E-Mobility Financing Program” to support the transition to electric vehicles.

And the “Enhancing climate resilience of India’s coastal communities” project, which will support the protection and restoration of India’s natural ecosystems.

Canada also wants to contribute to the discussions on a new collective quantified goal on climate finance and the funding arrangements for loss and damage.

As a former activist, I have learned the importance of dialogue as a powerful tool to address our differences and to seek ambitious compromises for the benefit of people and the planet.

Multilateral collaboration is vital.

We need it to support global clean energy transition. We need it to create alliances such as the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the world’s foremost voluntary initiative driving coal phase-out efforts.

Compared to last year, coal and gas generation were down 11 percent. This means fewer emissions.

And for the first time in the EU, renewables overtook fossil fuels—rising to 40 percent of electricity generation.  

We also need multilateralism to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. As we did last December, when under the Chinese Presidency, we brought all 196 Parties together to support the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework.

The Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework is an agreed international pathway to conserve at least 30 percent of land and seas by 2030.

Canada is now turning its attention to implementation.

To that end, it is important that the G20 express its support for the full and effective implementation of the Framework.

We have agreed for instance to end subsidies harmful to nature, among other priorities.

Canada understands that accelerating action requires more resources from the Global North to the Global South. That’s why we are a significant contributor to the Global Environment Facility.

Which has provided more than $23 billion and mobilized $129 billion in co-financing for more than 5,000 national and regional projects—from clean energy production to water management.

Canada and India are working together to collectively combat another urgent issue: plastic pollution.

In Canada, we are encouraging the adoption of resource efficient approaches to build a more circular economy.

This includes banning the manufacture, import and sale of six single-use plastic items.

And requiring certain plastic products to contain at least 50 percent recycled content by 2030.

Canada is a founding member of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution.

And in 2024, Canada will host the 4th Intergovernmental Session towards the adoption of an international binding treaty to end plastic pollution.

There is no time to lose.  

When we look out our windows, we can see the rising climate impacts. And, at the same time, there are many opportunities to accelerate action in response to global threats.

The G20 has an important role to play in maintaining and advancing the global ambition to combat climate change.

And can help set the stage for discussions later this year at COP28 in Dubai.

As G20 President, and as the world’s most populous country enjoying some of the most rapid economic growth, India will play an important role in shaping COP28’s expected outcomes.

COP28 is an opportunity for a rapid collective course correction, to keep the world on track in limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

COP28 is also an opportunity to increase attention on adaptation action, as the world comes together to adopt the Global Goal on Adaptation.

It’s also an opportunity to make the best use of the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement.

This process will help us see where we’re making progress collectively towards meeting our Paris goals—and where we need to focus.

We can’t afford a meaningless stocktake.

It’s about the accountability of our previous, current, and future efforts.

It’s also about being responsive to global expectations for COP28.

It’s about filling the important gaps, including the mitigation gap, finance gap, and adaptation gap.

I’d like to focus quickly on the last gap I mentioned. We’ve entered a new reality, with the increase of frequency and severity of climate-related extreme events.

The events we are seeing everywhere are horrifying. My children tell me often that when they speak to their friends, sometimes they share that they are concerned about the future.

I’d like to highlight India’s leadership on adaptation for many decades.

Adaptation is not something developed countries like mine have prioritized over many years.

Adaptation is not just about climate resiliency policy. It’s about environmental justice and creating a world where people can lead healthy lives, where we have a thriving natural environment, and where communities can grow and businesses can prosper.

It’s about risk management and how we ensure adaptation action informs all our policies.

We are living with the impacts of climate change, and we need to work with all partners to adapt. That’s what we have tried to do in our National Adaptation Strategy.

We are looking forward to learning from India and cooperating on this agenda together, including building climate-resilient infrastructure and promoting biodiversity-based adaptation solutions.

This is a unique moment for all of us and it also requires a unique sense of cooperation.

I am confident Canada’s priorities on climate change and the environment are relevant to India’s experience.

We are wrestling with similar and growing challenges.

We are both prioritizing the transition to clean energy sources, climate resilience and international climate diplomacy.

Sharing knowledge and expertise can support technology transfer and collaboration.

Here at IIT Madras you have a well-established history of research collaborations with Canadian universities such as Carleton University, the University of Guelph, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia and more.

You can all make a difference in the strong leadership role India can play at home and on the international scene, whether it’s India’s goals for increasing its renewable-energy capacity, enhancing forest carbon sinks and climate-resilient infrastructure, or facilitating more sustainable lifestyles.

You all can play a key role in reaching—and even driving past—current goals to ensure that India is a global climate and environmental leader.

Beyond India, you can take an active role in shaping a sustainable future.

In this room, I see the people that can, and I hope will, take this forward. The people that will make it happen.

By working together, we can do great things to create a healthier and more sustainable reality for all our citizens.

I look forward to seeing where we take this.

Thank you.

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