Environment minister to the world: #CanadaIsBack

Dene Moore
National Affairs Contributor
Canada Politics
Catherine McKenna in Paris for climate change talks ahead of UN conference

Canada is back.

That’s the message from new Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to the international community as global ministers gather for talks in Paris ahead of the United Nations climate change talks.

McKenna took to Twitter to ensure her colleagues and Canadians know that Canada is in attendance, with the hashtag #CanadaIsBack.

“We are here to play a constructive role with you #COP21,” she wrote on her social media page, referring to the UN summit later this month where world leaders will try to agree on a new climate change agreement.

It is the first time in a decade that a Canadian environment minister has attended the pre-summit meetings in person.

“We’re fully committed to the successful negotiations of a fair and effective international climate change agreement in Paris,” McKenna says.

The minister’s message did not go unnoticed.

She received a very public welcome via Twitter from Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy and Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Great to meet @ministre_ec, the brand new Canadian #climate minister. As she said: Le Canada est de retour!” added Miguel Arias Canete, @MAC_europa, the European Union’s climate action commissioner.

“Welcome back Canada!” tweeted Achala C. Abeysinghe, a legal advisor on UN climate negotiations:

And from Marie-Anne Coninsx, ambassador of the European Union in Canada: “We count on #Canada — our Strategic Partner, to make Paris #COP21 a success. Best wishes & a good trip to Europe.”

The London-based International Institute for Environment and Development called it “encouraging news from Canada.”

Under the previous Conservative government, climate change largely dropped off the federal agenda.

Last year, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told CBC News that Canada needed to do more as it became clear the country would fall short of meeting its own, modest emissions reductions targets.

And earlier this year, a group led by former UN leader Kofi Annan chided Canada as a “climate laggard.”

Canada’s strategy under the Conservatives was to promote financing for climate change mitigation and adaption, over emissions reductions.

McKenna, on the other hand, says the science is indisputable.

“We recognize the need for urgent/greater action that is grounded in robust science,” she says on Twitter.

“Our main goal is to make sure that all human beings can fulfill a healthy, safe sustainable life.”

She promises to work with provinces and territories and play a “constructive” role at the Paris climate talks.

“Turning that ship around after decade wrong direction ain’t easy. But it’s begun,” tweeted James Boxall, @JamesGIS, governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a professor at Dalhousie University.

Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

“Actually, the Liberal Party is back. Canada never left. But I appreciate the hubris,” replied Graeme Menzies, a marketing and communications professional, who called the hashtag an “F.U.” to the voters who rejected the Liberal party three times over the past decade.