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Liberals call Commons debate, vote on ratifying Paris climate commitments

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna speaks to reporters following a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept 28, 2016. The Liberal government will hold a debate and a vote in the House of Commons next week on whether Canada should ratify the international Paris climate accord. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
September 30, 2016 - 11:54 AM

OTTAWA - The Liberal government will hold a debate and a vote in the House of Commons next week on whether Canada should ratify the international Paris climate accord.

The debate by MPs is to begin Monday as federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna sits down in Montreal with her provincial and territorial counterparts to begin negotiating a plan to meet Canada's Paris commitments.

The outcome of next Wednesday's vote is a foregone conclusion — given the Liberal majority — but the outcome of the federal-provincial negotiations is not.

"I think it's really important to have a debate, as does the prime minister," McKenna said Friday of next week's debate.

"People want to see action on climate change, and I think it's a really important issue that Canadians see parliamentarians discuss the Paris agreement (and) the Vancouver Declaration. We know we need to move forward."

The Liberals have adopted the same emissions-cutting goals that were set by the previous Conservative government — a plan to reduce greenhouse gases 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

A report this week from the Pembina Institute found that Canada's emissions are currently two per cent below 2005 levels, but have been rising slowly for the last five years.

McKenna has said Ottawa will impose a national floor price on carbon for provinces that do not adopt their own carbon tax and cap-and-trade market, a move that is opposed by Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and territorial leaders.

It was following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's meeting with the premiers in March of this year that they issued the so-called "Vancouver Declaration," a broad statement of support for establishing a "pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change."

"I've listened to all of the provinces and territories; I've had meetings, both individually and in groups, with all of the provinces and territories," McKenna said.

"Everyone understands we need to move forward. Everyone understands, and through the Vancouver Declaration, this was part of it, putting a price on what we don't want — pollution — is something that's important."

According to Environment Canada's 2016 emissions report, Canada accounted for 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2012.

Earlier this week, India announced it has ratified the Paris agreement and the European Union indicated it may do so within the next few days.

That would mean countries accounting for nearly 65 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions will have approved the accord, which is set to take effect 30 days after 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of emissions deposit their ratification instruments with the UN.

Currently, 61 countries accounting for nearly 48 per cent of emissions have joined the accord.

Should the EU ratify before Oct. 7, the next UN conference on climate change set to take place in Marrakech would begin on Nov. 7 with the agreement already in force.

India, accounting for about 4.5 per cent of emissions, reportedly ratified the agreement on Wednesday and planned to deposit the ratification instruments with the UN on Oct. 2, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth.

Germany ratified the accord on Sept. 23 but EU rules require European countries, responsible for about 12 per cent of emissions, to deposit their ratifications as a bloc when all 28 members have approved the deal.

Diplomats and media reports said the EU hoped to speed the process at a meeting later this week and finalize approval by Oct. 7.

The Paris agreement requires governments to present national plans to reduce emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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