Canada is Broiling. Premiers Know It. Now It’s Up to Us.

Eleven of Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers were in Ottawa Monday for a climate science briefing and four-hour working dinner with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The First Ministers received the briefing from two of the country’s leading climate scientists, ahead of the United Nations climate summit opening next week in Paris. And the PM’s statement at the end of the dinner pointed in the right direction.

“In Paris, a united Canada will demonstrate that we are serious about climate change,” he told media. “This means making decisions based on science. It means reducing carbon emissions, including new carbon pricing, towards a climate-resilient economy.”

But now we need action to follow the words. The scientists had an urgent message for the politicians, and it’s up to you and me to make sure they do something about it.

Canada Warms at Twice the Global Rate

Trudeau and the premiers know they have to move fast. The scientists warned that, thanks to climate change, the rate of warming in Canada is twice the global average. In a fabulous break with the last decade of government secrecy, their presentation is already available on the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) website.

"Warming over the 20th century is unequivocal and largely due to human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels," said Ouranos Executive Director Alain Bourque.

Bourque “told the first ministers an increase of two degrees in average temperatures globally could mean that Canada would see a change of about three to four degrees,” CBC reported.

“Impacts of a changing climate are already being felt, and they will increase with further warming," said ECCC Senior Research Scientist and IPCC lead author Greg Flato. "The science indicates that reducing greenhouse gases is what is needed in order to stabilize temperature at some level.”

Premiers Are (Still) Divided

After a decade of missed opportunities for Canada to lead on climate change, the First Ministers’ meeting was a moment of welcome relief. But that’s not to say the premiers agreed on the way forward.

Premiers Kathleen Wynne of Ontario, Rachel Notley of Alberta, and Christy Clark of British Columbia all pointed to the steps their provinces are already taking to price and reduce carbon emissions. “I do not believe in this false choice between environment and growth,” Clark said. “I think they can happen together.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall acknowledged the need to “do better” on climate, but put his emphasis on “the jobs that are at stake in a sector that’s undergoing a lot of stress right now” due to crashing oil prices. “We’ve got to find the right balance.”

While they’re in Paris, First Ministers will indeed have to do better. And that begins with joining together for a tough climate standard the opens the door to a wave of clean energy jobs. Now is the time to turn up the heat and insist on a negotiating position that:

  • Goes beyond the Harper government’s lukewarm promise to cut Canada’s carbon emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030
  • Sets clear, ambitious targets for carbon cuts by 2020
  • Commits to a 100% fossil-free economy by 2050
  • Puts Canadian dollars on the table to help the world’s poorest countries embrace low-carbon technologies and adapt to the climate change impacts they’re already experiencing.

E-mail Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at and your provincial or territorial premier and tell them why you insist on a strong Canadian negotiating position at the UN climate summit in Paris. As you already know, we love hearing your thoughts, so please cc at! Use the list below to contact your premier.

And take a moment to donate, to help build Sierra Club Canada Foundation into an even stronger voice for a healthy, carbon-free planet.


Diane Beckett
Executive Director • (613)241-4611