US envoy Stern urges Canada to deliver UN climate pledge

Be like Mexico, John Kerry’s lead diplomat tells North American neighbour as it errs in posting pollution-reduction targets

US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern in Geneva in 2010 (Flickr / US Mission)

US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern in Geneva in 2010 (Flickr / US Mission)

By Alex Pashley

Chief US climate diplomat Todd Stern encouraged Canada to take Mexico’s lead in submitting robust carbon cutting plans yesterday.

As Canada holds off, Stern praised Mexico’s “excellent submission” days before the UN’s climate bureau’s informal March 31 deadline at the close of the Major Economies Forum in Washington DC.

“[W]e’ll certainly be encouraging [Canada] to be as ambitious as possible,” Stern told reporters at the close of the two-day conference. “Our other North American partner Mexico came forward with an excellent submission, so we’re encouraging Canada to be strong like Mexico.”

Mexico’s plans to peak emissions by 2026 as part of a global deal to be finalised in December, amp up pressure on the North America’s last country to post cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Canada is set to miss its pledge to lower emissions by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020, the Climate Action Tracker group estimates, instead overshooting its target by 9%.

The world’s fifth oil exporter, powered by its abundant tar sands, has come under criticism for its commitment to tackle global warming.

Last month a government spokesperson told RTCC delays in its UN pledge owed to consultation with provinces and territories to “ensure it has the most complete picture … before submitting.”

Mexico’s haste showed leadership and shined a light on “those that are able to do so but didn’t meet the deadline like Canada and Japan,” Jennifer Morgan at the World Resources Institute told RTCC today.

The WRI climate change head underscored the potential of North American collaboration, citing recent dialogue between Mexico and the US — two of the NAFTA trade bloc trio — on climate policy.

“It does seem to me you are seeing two of the NAFTA members trying to pull things forward, while another is lagging behind,” said Morgan.

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The multi-annual Major Economies Forum gave the chance for “informal and candid exchanges … often hard to find elsewhere,” Stern said.

It gathered 17 of the world’s leading economies, plus 11 additional invitees from the Marshall Islands to Saudi Arabia, in the run-up to a critical summit in Paris in less than eight months.

Stern said the meeting had been constructive, as well as “notable in the degree of clear focus” among all parties on thorny issues to be hammered out in the coming months.

Those included talks on financing to adaptation to climate impacts, a ‘loss and damage’ fund, and ways to ensure countries’ emissions pledges were enough to rein in dangerous climate change.

Pollution from shipping was also on the agenda, with the Marshall Islands announcing plans on Monday to encourage the huge number of trade vessels carrying its flag around the world to invest in energy efficient technologies.

Stern said he wasn’t worried about delays in countries’ publication of climate plans — so-called intended nationally-determined contributions in UN parlance  — and expected to reach a deal in Paris.

Reflecting on the much-hyped but disappointing Copenhagen summit in 2009, Stern said expectations were more “measured” this time around.

“There’s a substantially greater level of understanding of how this kind of agreement can come together, a greater sense of realism even at the basic structure,” Stern said.

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