POLITICS

Catherine McKenna Optimistic Deal Will Be Reached In Paris

12/09/2015 02:10 EST | Updated 12/09/2016 05:12 EST
PARIS — Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she is optimistic a deal will be reached at the international climate-change conference in Paris, although she admits it is difficult to know whether recognition of carbon-pricing mechanisms will make the final cut.

"I see some progress but there are some countries that have real difficulties on a more ideological basis, so we're trying to work around that," McKenna told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Overall, work is progressing well and we are still aiming to reach an agreement by Dec. 11 (Friday). However, there is still work to be done."

McKenna was named a facilitator at the conference by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and she called the role "demanding" and "time-consuming" but very important to the success of the process.

"Overall, work is progressing well and we are still aiming to reach an agreement by Dec. 11."

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, another advocate of carbon-pricing mechanisms, said he wouldn't be unduly bothered if the measure did not make the final agreement. 

"We will continue all our initiatives regardless," he said. "Some countries are opposed for internal political reasons. It's not simple."

Another Canadian attending the conference is Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, who said Premier Rachel Notley's recently announced sweeping new climate change strategy is changing the province's reputation.

"Alberta has put in place a robust set of policies and now we are leaders in the country and on the continent in terms of action," Phillips told reporters.

"With respect to our international reputation, we've certainly seen a situation where we've turned the page. We are being received quite positively here at COP21 and the reason for that is we have demonstrated it can be done — that rational drama-free conversations as energy producers can be had and that leadership can come out of that."

Notley's plan aims to impose a broad carbon tax and launch long-term changes to end coal-fired electricity generation and cap greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands.

Alberta's resource-based economy makes up a third of Canada's total GHG emissions.

cop21

Participants attend a panel called, "Science on a Sphere Presentation" at COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Dec. 8, 2015. (Associated Press)

Notley has said that not only is her plan the right thing to do environmentally, it will give Alberta some moral leverage when it bids to expand its oil and gas resource network through such mechanisms as pipelines.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, who is also in Paris, said Wednesday it is important for his province and the country as a whole to tackle pressing environmental issues.

"It's not only because it's the right thing to do, it's not only because it's the most significant challenge of our generation, it's also because if we are going to...sell our products to the international market, we have to show them we are playing our role when it comes to climate change," he said.

"This discussion is about the economy and the environment at the same time. It's not about the economy versus the environment."     

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