MPs set to back Paris climate change agreement tonight

The House of Commons is set to formally endorse the Paris agreement on climate change tonight, despite concerns from opposition parties that the Liberal government’s plan is not enough for Canada to meet international obligations.

MPs will vote beginning at 6 p.m. ET. and will carry it live.

Calling it a “really great day,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said formally backing the deal marks a significant step forward after 10 years of “inaction.” She called on partisan critics to stop “playing politics” with an accord that is crucial to the environment.

“We’re going to take practical action to tackle climate change, to grow our economy,” she said. “And it’s about the future of our kids and grandkids.”

Canada is among the 191 signatories to the international climate agreement, but countries must individually ratify the deal. Tonight’s vote is a government motion so therefore not binding, but it is seen as symbolically significant in the ratification process.

The cabinet has already approved ratification of the agreement.

The Paris accord commits to keep global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

Today it cleared a final hurdle for ratification. The agreement required 55 countries that make up 55 per cent of global emissions to take effect, and formal ratification by the EU pushed it past that threshold.

Carbon pricing plan

Under the accord, Canada agrees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. 

To meet that goal, Trudeau served notice Monday that the proposed price on carbon dioxide pollution will start at a minimum of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022. He provoked anger from some provinces, particularly Saskatchewan, by warning the federal government will impose a price for those provinces that don’t.

McKenna wants opposition to stop playing politics on Paris accord2:18

Speaking after meeting his caucus in Ottawa, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the Liberal carbon-pricing scheme fails to measure actual reductions and does not include an “economy-wide plan” to meet targets as required by the Paris deal.

He said he will his party will back ratification “in principle,” but accused the Liberals of signing up to the international agreement without a clear plan to cut emissions.

“I think Canadians are getting suspicious of governments that come up with dates that are so far down the raod,” he said. “They know that by the next electoral rendezvous that nothing will have been decided.”

The NDP has tabled an amendment to include First Nations in the agreement, but it is not clear if the government will accept any changes.

The Conservatives have also tabled an amendment calling for a plan to combat climate change that “does not encroach on provincial or territorial jurisdiction or impose a tax increase on Canadians.”

‘Simplistic policy’

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the Paris agreement is an improvement over the Kyoto protocol because it includes high-emitting nations. But she will not support tonight’s motion because it is a “tacit endorsement” of the Liberal carbon pricing plan.

She criticized that plan because it lacks data on projected emissions, and ignores the diverse regional and sectoral nature of Canada’s economy.

“I think that this is such a simplistic policy instrument that it’s actually going to stifle innovation,” she said.

“It’s going to stifle a multi-faceted approach that involves new technology development and adoption, conservation methods, sector-by-sector regulatory …. all of these things that would be a made-in-Canada approach to climate change, which would acknowledge the fact that we’re not a European country.”

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