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A View From Canada On The U.S. Decision To Pull Out Of The Climate Pact


Before President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, he met with leaders of some important U.S. allies - the six other members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations. Last week in Sicily, those countries tried and failed to convince Trump to stay in the Paris accord. Canada was among them. And joining us on the line from Ottawa is Canada's minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna. Minister, good morning.


GREENE: So I know there were people from your government who were in Europe doing some of that lobbying. Take us inside those discussions, as far as you know, of what they were like and whether there was any negotiating space offered by the Trump administration.

MCKENNA: Well, we've been having discussions with the Trump administration. I've been talking with my counterpart, Administrator Pruitt, since he's been in office and...

GREENE: At the EPA, yeah.

MCKENNA: He's head of the EPA. And also, of course, last week, the prime minister was very clear that he believes that the Paris Agreement is a huge economic opportunity that, you know, obviously we all want to be doing everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we're seeing a trillion-dollar opportunity as we move to a low-carbon future, and you're seeing that as much in the U.S. as anywhere else, that there's lots of innovations going on. In fact, the five Republican - the five states that are growing the fastest in terms of wind capacity are Republican states. And so it was really focused on the economic case.

And I think all the other leaders were making that case too. I mean, I don't think threats are particularly helpful, and we have a good relationship with the United States. We have a great trading relationship that's extremely important to Canada. And so, you know, look, I think we did everything we can to say that the Paris Agreement is actually a good deal for the United States and a good deal for the world.

GREENE: Why didn't the argument work?

MCKENNA: Well, look, it's up to the U.S. to make - to the administration to make its calls. But we - you know, the rest of the world is standing firm. And I think it's important to note - and I think this is what has been very positive to see - is that you've seen business leaders in the United States, you've seen governors in the United States, you've seen mayors in the United States really step up and say we're taking action to tackle climate change because we know it's real. We know we need to do our part, and it also makes economic sense.

GREENE: Which makes me wonder. I mean, if your country and others and businesses and some states in the United States are all committed to following this agreement through, how big a deal is this decision when it comes to this agreement's viability?

MCKENNA: Look, it's always unfortunate. The U.S. played a significant role in negotiating the Paris Agreement. I was there in the negotiations through the night with the U.S. And I think it's always important for the U.S. to be at the table, but the world is going to move on. And the Paris Agreement is a very important - it's a very important treaty, but at the same time, we also recognize that, you know, there's - that it was a signal to the markets that the world is moving towards a low-carbon future. And I really, as I say, very pleased to see that everyone's really moving forward. And, you know, it's unfortunate to not have the U.S. I'm not entirely sure what the position is of the U.S. saying it wants to renegotiate.

GREENE: Right.

MCKENNA: And I'm actually with my U.S. counterpart, Administrator Pruitt, next week at the G7 meeting in Italy. And I'll be asking for more clarity.

GREENE: What exactly that means. Well, if - I mean, President Trump said that he is open to somehow renegotiating - potentially renegotiating in some way that some conservative skeptics in the United States might get on board. I mean, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy saying, nope, can't be renegotiated. What is Canada's view?

MCKENNA: Well, I mean, you can't renegotiate the Paris Agreement itself. The Paris Agreement's already in force. It was supported by 195 countries, and it's - so it's come into effect. I mean, there are 90 percent of the rules that remain to be negotiated - I've also emphasized this with the United States - rules about the transparency, accountability. So there's a huge opportunity there to make sure that the framework is fair. And obviously, that - it's been conveyed to the United States that they need to figure out what their target is and they can be - we have - there's flexibility in the agreement to have a different target. So, you know, we'll continue making those points.

GREENE: Forgive me, Minister, we're actually out of time. I apologize. Catherine McKenna is Canada's minister of the environment. Thanks a lot.

MCKENNA: (Laughter) Great, thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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