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This article was published 27/11/2015 (2155 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Alberta Premier Rachel Notley a hug on Monday, the same as he did most other premiers as they arrived for a first ministers meeting on climate change in Ottawa.
But Trudeau owes Notley more than a hug. That's because the rookie NDP Alberta premier saved Trudeau's bacon ahead of the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris, which starts Monday.
Because of her work, Canada will have new concrete, climate change action to present at the conference. A day before the first ministers meeting, Notley unveiled an Alberta-specific plan that includes a cap on oilsands emissions, an economy-wide carbon tax and a phasing out of coal-fired power plants.
It's not the be all and end all for emissions reductions, particularly since the cap on oilsands emissions is higher than what they emit currently, and 12 of the 18 coal-fired generating plants affected already had to shut down by 2030 under federal regulations.
Scientists told Trudeau and the premiers the only way to fix this jam is to figure out a way to make our world emissions-neutral. That means either having zero emissions or finding ways to offset emissions so no more goes into the atmosphere than is taken out.
If we do nothing, Earth will warm up so much, we will see massive infrastructure failures, rising sea levels, more droughts and more forest fires, heavier rains and more flooding. The list goes on and on.
Canada, for what it's worth, is going to see more temperature increases than Earth as a whole.
For every degree of warming seen globally, Canada's average temperatures will go up two degrees. In the Arctic, the rate is three or four times as fast.
Still, Notley's plan is at least something new and substantive for Canada to take to the world stage. As Notley herself said, it's a way to try to improve the brutal and well-deserved reputation of Canada's oilsands around the world.
"There's no question it's important for us to be able to communicate to the world that it is possible to be an energy producer in a responsible, sustainable, thoughtful, transparent way," Notley said at the conclusion of Monday's meeting.
But without Notley, Canada wouldn't have much more than Trudeau to show off in Paris. That's because while Trudeau has talked a good game on the environment, thus far it's not clear what he will do about it. He says the environment and economic growth go hand in hand, but hasn't said how that will happen.
He criticized the previous Conservative government's track record on climate change, but has refused to set new targets for emissions, reiterating that will happen in consultation with the provinces.
Well, he consulted with the provinces Monday, and all that came out of it was a photo op and the sense the current premiers and the prime minister like each other so much they may sing Kumbaya around a campfire at their next meeting.
"The way forward for Canada will be a solution that resembles Canada, that is shared values and a shared desire for outcomes and different approaches to achieve those outcomes right across this great country," Trudeau said.
One has to wonder how many emissions were expelled to pull that meeting together just to get such an inane statement.
During the election, Trudeau pledged $200 million a year for clean technologies and innovation in forestry, energy and agriculture, and $100 million more for clean-technology companies.
And yes, he has only been in office a month, but it might have been nice to see Canada taking some sort of specific initiative to Paris. Right now, the only new initiative belongs to Notley.
Scientists would not wade into the policy arena this week. They said they can tell us what is happening and what has to happen, but it's up to the politicians to figure out the way to get us there.
The Paris conference starts in a few days. Let's hope the outcome for Canada is more specific and less flowery than the outcome of this week's first ministers meeting.
The last thing this world needs is more hot air.
Mia Rabson is the Free Press parliamentary bureau chief.
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