No one wanted us to attend COP15 reveals Steven Guilbeault

“No one wanted us to attend COP15,” reveals Steven Guilbeault

(Montreal) Environment Secretary Steven Guilbeault revisited the organization of last winter’s COP15 in Montreal and the reluctance of some members of the Trudeau government to organize such a summit with China, during an event organized by Montreal’s Council on International Relations of Montreal ( CORIM).

Posted at 5:59pm.


Stephane Blais The Canadian Press

When Montreal became the default option for hosting COP15 due to China’s withdrawal and because the Convention on Biological Diversity is headquartered in the metropolis, few people in the Trudeau government were enthusiastic about the idea, according to the Environment Minister.

“No one wanted us to attend COP15, the State Department said it was too risky because we needed to work closely with China, a country with which our relations have been complicated lately, to say the least,” Minister Steven Guilbeault said On Friday afternoon.

“We had five months to organize a conference that normally takes two years to organize and the Privy Council disagreed, the Prime Minister’s Office disagreed” and “officials almost asked me what I smoked that day.” , even if it was.” “The law has been legalized in Canada,” declared the minister, drawing laughter from guests listening to his speech at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

He explained that “two people” believed in him: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

“The prime minister said, ‘We’re doing it because we have a responsibility and we can’t allow it any longer’.”

Steven Guilbeault was invited by CORIM to discuss in particular “the importance of strengthening environmental multilateralism” and “working together and creating partnerships”.

Alongside China, which chaired the COP15 on biodiversity, the minister explained that one of the partners who helped Canada the most in organizing the event was the team of Boris Johnson, the former British Prime Minister.

“One of the governments I have worked with the most and have had an incredible connection with since becoming Environment Secretary is a populist right-wing government,” Mr Guilbeault said.

He explained that he was in “regular contact” with some UK ministers and that London had even “borrowed staff” to Canada to organize COP15.

“They are on the right, but we can find common ground,” added the minister, stressing the importance of dialogue to build good partnerships.

sobriety and decline

The host of the event, Leïla Copti, president of PR firm COPTICOM, asked him to comment on “L’appel de Montréal”, a document the minister signed on the sidelines of COP15, which calls on world leaders to rethink the economy and address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss.

“The Montreal appeal urges us to recognize that we can no longer aim for infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources,” Leila Copti reminded her former Greenpeace colleague Steven Guilbeault, asking if now is the right time to discuss “degrowth “ to ponder, not to say decline”.

“We try to let science guide our political and economic actions as much as possible,” replied Steven Guilbeault, expressing his desire to see practices such as circular economy increasingly integrated into markets.

“Of course, on a planet whose resources are finite, we cannot believe that we will always be able to add up. “There’s an old magazine on the left that said economists must also learn to subtract,” said the minister, jokingly apologizing to the economists in the room.

“I have a hard time imagining how a government could legislate sobriety, but we can encourage it and put mechanisms in place, and we can also move more and more towards a circular economy to limit the depletion of natural resources and encourage their reuse .” which is already circulating in the economy,” he said.

He gave the example of critical minerals used in the manufacture of electric vehicles that could be reused at the end of a vehicle’s life cycle.

“It would be a crime, really a crime, to put these minerals in a landfill once these cars are out of service,” added Steven Guilbeault, explaining “that we’re getting more and more into that.”

Financing the fossil industry

Ms. Copti recalled that the federal government had declared a “climate emergency”, but that the “environmental situation continues to deteriorate” and that the federal government continues to fund fossil energy projects.

“Limiting emissions from the oil and gas sector is still in the consultation phase, it takes a long time to move on to concrete steps,” she stressed, noting that Environment Commissioner for Sustainable Development Jerry V. DeMarco said so recently declared “The history of Canada is made up of many good words and too few deeds. It is a series of failures over the past 30 years in the fight against climate change and in protecting biodiversity.”

Minister Guilbeault responded to his criticism that the passage of laws and regulations is not progressing as quickly as he would like: “Every day I ask my colleagues and officials how we manage to go faster?” “.

He also defended himself by saying that Canada has invested almost 120 billion in public transport electrification and clean technologies and that tens of billions more are planned.

“We’re half what Americans are going to invest, but we’re 10 times smaller,” he said, citing the $300 billion Inflation Reduction Act announced by President Joe Biden, which includes major measures to reduce greenhouse gases .

Regarding Canada’s commitments at COP15, the minister indicated that a bill “to implement our biodiversity goals” should be presented to Parliament in the autumn.