Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former environment and climate change minister, has received the Chevalier honour from the French government in recognition of her contribution to the landmark Paris Agreement.

Among her accomplishments highlighted in a news release is McKenna’s role as one of the lead negotiators on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement (the section that deals with carbon markets), as well as negotiating the France-Canada Partnership on Climate and the Environment, signed in 2018.

France’s Legion of Honour is the country’s highest distinction for military and civilians, which can also be awarded to foreigners, as is the case with McKenna. The Legion of Honour is split into five classifications of increasing distinction. In order they are Chevalier, Officier, Commandeur, Grand officier, and Grand-croix. On average, 300 foreigners are recognized each year.

McKenna was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015, where she served as environment minister until 2019 and minister of infrastructure and communities until 2021 before deciding not to seek re-election. During her time in office, the federal government established a price on carbon, a national coal phaseout plan, increased nature protections and controversially purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Since leaving federal politics, she has been an active player on the international climate scene, chairing the UN’s High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) –– a task force aimed at cracking down on greenwashing. Last year, the HLEG published an authoritative report detailing what a credible net-zero commitment looks like.

The honour comes as French President Emmanuel Macron looks to build international support for a “new global financial pact” at a summit hosted in Paris this week. The summit is bringing together approximately 50 world leaders, with over 100 countries represented, in an attempt to find consensus on how to reform major international financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and others to help pay for climate action.

Despite Canada playing a major role in international climate finance negotiations, given Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault’s role in advancing loss and damage discussions last year at COP27 and his role stickhandling a delivery plan for rich countries to pony up the $100 billion worth of climate financed promised by 2020, neither he nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are attending. International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan will represent Canada at the summit.

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Useful to recall McKenna's record in government:
As Environment Minister, McKenna staunchly defended the Trudeau government's plan to fail on climate. McKenna peddled the Liberal lie that we need to boost fossil fuel production to fund the energy transition.
McKenna was an expert greenwasher for new pipelines and LNG projects. Infamous for her robotic recital of Liberal talking points.

Michael Harris: "… Although Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna continue to say all the right things on the environment, their rhetoric is emptier than a limp balloon."
"McKenna's bafflegab fails to counter that GHG targets keep being missed" (ipolitics)

When the IPCC called for swift climate action, then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna stalled for time:
"We are in a transition. So transitions don't happen overnight."
"The reality is this is a transition that is going to take decades."
"But the reality is people are still using oil and gas. We haven't gotten to the point that there isn't this demand for it."

McKenna redefined "transition away from fossil fuels". In McKenna-speak, "transition away from fossil fuels" means doubling down on fossil fuels.
In reality, transitions start by moving in the direction you wish to travel. Doubling down on fossil fuels takes us in the wrong direction.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.

"Catherine McKenna says Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will make B.C. coast safer" (CBC, 2018)
"It's an example of the economy and the environment going together."

Now she has changed her tune :
"You can't be a climate leader and invest in new fossil fuel projects. You can't use credits to meet emissions reduction goals. You can't reduce emissions intensity instead of absolute emissions reductions."
— Catherine McKenna, former Canadian environment minister and chair of the "United Nations High-Level Expert Group on the Net Zero Commitments of Non-state Actors" (2022)

McKenna: "We cannot allow companies to claim they are on the path to net zero if they are investing in new fossil-fuel infrastructure, if their absolute emissions are not decreasing, if they are only reporting on part of their emissions or if they are lobbying to undermine climate policy."
"Companies need to stop greenwashing and get serious with net-zero pledges" (Globe and Mail, 2023)

The champion greenwasher tells companies to stop greenwashing — and gets a medal for it.

I heard of her telling how frustrating it was to be Min. Environment and not be able to do what she thought she'd been given the position to do. I've heard that cabinet works to some extent on a "majority rule" basis, with one person having veto power, and also having the power to remove any of them at any time from the positions he gave them.
It's part of why things in government seem to always take so darned long, and always to be almost as many steps back as forward. And in the case of Climate measures, more.

I'm afraid it's called careerism. I imagine McKenna was sincere and forced to say things she didn't believe. Unfortunately, the damage done is immense.

Sharp criticism for McKenna. What's going on? No sympathy for the vile misogyny she endured as the Canadian Environment Minister? No kudos for her achievements negotiating the Paris Accord, or introducing cash-back carbon pricing? She continues to advocate for climate mitigation on the international stage, including at the United Nations, to her credit. It takes spine in the face of Big Oil, its well-heeled allies and vocal politicians who denigrate climate science and oppose every attempt to mitigate emissions -- not to mention the misogynists, overt and covert. To McKenna's critics I ask, what have you done to mitigate the climate crisis? Why won't you applaud a woman working to save the planet from environmental disaster?