A Strong Start to the G7 Halifax Environment Ministers Meeting
John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
September 19, 2018
The G7 Halifax Environment Ministers Meeting on September 19th got off to a strong start by proclaiming as its main message — the ecological transition is the growth story of the twenty-first century. The opportunity is now. The time has come to shift thinking from climate risks to climate opportunities. Controlling climate change is and will be a major source of economic growth, good jobs, investment and productivity for the middle class and in a more inclusive way.
The designers wisely started with a special conference the day before on climate finance. It featured as its keynote speaker Michael Sabia, the CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada's second largest pension fund. He emphasized that those seeking stable, strong, long-term returns would find them in investments in renewable and clean energy, low-energy real estate and low carbon transportation. His firm had already walked the talk by declaring last year that it would reduce the carbon footprint of its portfolio by 25% by 2025.
The ministerial meeting itself opened with a session on climate finance, with presentations by Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England and chair of the Financial Stability Board. They also noted, as had Sabia, that much was happening in the right direction but that much more was needed now. In her opening remarks as chair, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change declared that the challenge was to turn the "billions into trillions" to produce the sustainable finance transformations on time.
McKenna noted that G7 ministers had an ambitious agenda, and that she welcomed that. She also noted that their work was ultimately about people, above all the young and the most vulnerable in the world. Speaking of her recent conversation with high school students in Cambridge Bay she told their story of how climate change was already killing their fathers and brothers as they fell through the thinning ice while hunting to provide their families with food. They looked to those at the table today to provide the leadership that only the G7 could.
McKenna also emphasized how climate change control was intimately connected to gender equality, the central mainstreamed priority of the G7 Charlevoix Summit that her prime minister, Justin Trudeau, hosted on June 8-9. Women and girls were the greatest victims of climate change. But they were also powerful change agents who could help provide the solutions that were urgently needed now.
McKenna urged her colleagues in their discussions today to avoid acronyms and "wonky" policy language but instead to "make it real." Ambitious leadership that responded to the needs of people, in ways that they understood and could help shape, was what the G7 is all about when it works at its best. The environment ministers' strong start at Halifax showed it was doing so, and suggested it would finish this way too.
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