OTTAWA—The French president’s special envoy on climate change has found an ally in NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in his quest to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.
Nicolas Hulot, who is in Ottawa this week, held a half-hour discussion October 7 with Mulcair, who told him he wants to use next year’s federal election to launch a debate about the environment in Canada.
Hulot’s request for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper drew a brusque dismissal.
“The prime minister will not be meeting Mr. Hulot,” Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald said in an email. “The prime minister meets or speaks with his counterparts when there are important issues to discuss.”
Hulot wants to consult widely in the run-up to France hosting the next major international climate summit late next year, likely a month or two after the next Canadian general election. He’s stressing the need for Canada to join the fight against climate change, which he said is clearly linked to human behaviour.
He realizes that he’s not likely to see eye to eye with Harper on the issue, considering how dependent Canada is on traditional forms of energy like Alberta oilsands bitumen.
“I can understand that it is difficult for some economic actors to accept this fact because the consequences of this reality mean we have to leave step by step the carbon economy,” Hulot told The Canadian Press in an interview at the French embassy, which sits next door to Harper’s official residence.
“In a country so dependent on this economy, I can understand the resistance.”
Hulot was also laying the groundwork for a planned visit to Ottawa early next month by French President Francois Hollande.
“When the French president visits, there will be a discussion with Mr. Harper and Mr. Hollande. I would have preferred to have this first meeting, but it’s not so important.”
Hulot’s visit coincided with a report by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, which reaffirmed Canada will most likely miss its Copenhagen Accord target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
The government agreed to the Copenhagen target, in lieu of withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, to cut greenhouse gas production 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Hulot welcomed the idea of Canadians debating environmental issues during an election campaign, even if there is disagreement on the causes of climate change. He said it’s important the issue isn’t swept “under the carpet.”