An update on Canada at COP21

December 2, 2015
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses world leaders at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Paris is now returning to some sense of normalcy after the departure of heads of state and government. The first day of COP21 was dominated by a suffocating police presence around the conference site, including major hotels where leaders were staying. Last night, downtown streets were full of pedestrians and Christmas shoppers; outdoor terraces of bistros and bars were crammed with diners, most of whom were freezing to death as they evaded the ban on indoor smoking.

As Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated at the conference, the principal purpose of the Canadian delegation here is to "change the channel" from Canada as the skunk at the climate change garden party to the old Canada of Pearsonian multilateralism. And that seems to have worked. The delegation itself, a mammoth grouping of more than 300 people, is much more representative. Mr. Trudeau’s speech was very effective. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna has been seen all over the place. Yesterday, she briefed the 100 or so representatives from Canadian non-governmental organizations.

Canada is now in the process of further announcing what it will do with its increased financial contribution. The Harper Government had already announced that Canada would contribute its fair share to the Green Climate Fund. Yesterday Minister McKenna indicated that Canada would be making several announcements at COP, detailing how at least some of the additional money would be spent.

This offers Canada’s new federal government a chance to signal its intentions on development assistance. The "easy" way to disperse this money is to give it to existing multilateral institutions, like the World Bank, to spend. That is what the previous government did. It will go down well with the other participants in the COP.

But Canada's own aid problem has been cut to the bone by the previous government. Canada has plenty of competent people who could implement climate friendly projects in developing countries, and it could well receive credits for some of these projects, which it will need if it is to reach the 2020 target of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas reductions. Much of this money can and should be programmed by the former Canadian International Development Agency.

Canada also has a hidden gem. The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has been using other governments' money (principally the British) to fund research in developing countries on the transition to a low carbon economy. It is an enormous asset to Canada. Just ask any delegate from a developing country at this conference what she or he knows about Canada. And the answer is likely to contain a reference to IDRC. It surely could handle a good chunk of the extra $2.65 announced by Mr. Trudeau in Malta.

CIGI Distinguished Fellow David Runnalls is a guest blogger, providing analysis from on the ground at COP21, for Global Rule of Law.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.

About the Author

David Runnalls is a distinguished fellow and was formerly acting director of the Environment and Energy Program at CIGI.