Canada needs “a climate czar” to advance the country’s climate change goals, says the former federal environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna.

“In the United States, they have that, and you need someone who is very publicly facing and able to get change,” she said at the United Nation’s annual climate change negotiations in Dubai on the weekend.

John Kerry serves as the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate. It’s a high-profile role within the U.S. State Department which oversees foreign affairs. The position regularly sees the former Democratic presidential candidate criss-crossing the globe to lead his country’s climate negotiations. But it serves another purpose, too. It’s a very visible role signalling American climate priorities.

The U.S. isn’t the only country to have this role. In Germany, Jennifer Morgan, former co-executive director of Greenpeace International, took the post of special representative for international climate policy in 2022. The United Kingdom had a special representative for climate change since 2016, but axed the position this year in what one expert called a “backwards step.”

Arguably, Catherine Stewart, Canada’s ambassador for climate change, is the closest thing, but her role is far less visible than Kerry’s. That’s because Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault also takes a lead role in pushing Canada’s priorities on the international stage, most notably at conferences like the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, or biodiversity negotiations in Montreal last year.

Guilbeault isn’t sure if a special climate envoy in Canada is necessary. “We have our ambassador who is not as high-profile as John Kerry, but how many John Kerrys are there around the world?” he said.

“And Jennifer [Morgan] is certainly an incredibly dedicated and knowledgeable person ... but she certainly doesn't have the profile of John Kerry,” he added. “So I think it's easier said than done. You can say: ‘Oh, we want a John Kerry, but I don't see a lot of John Kerrys.’”

In Canada, international climate diplomacy is spread across a number of departments. For instance, Melanie Joly, minister of foreign affairs and Ahmed Hussen, minister of international development, both touch the file. But because the climate crisis affects every department, it’s important to have one person able to oversee everything, making the role of climate czar more than just a diplomatic role, McKenna says.

“There's all sorts of reasons why it's challenging for governments to deliver on commitments, so that's the person who ultimately is cracking the whip, saying we've got to get this done faster,” she said.

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Though a climate czar would help coordinate between federal departments affected by climate related targets or implement changes, the problem still remains with the likes of Danielle Smith, Doug Ford and Scott Moe for example whom will continue to undermine anything the federal government does to help mitigate climate change.

Danielle Smith, for example, works for oil & gas and not Albertans, so she will block anything that impacts the oil & gas sector, as does Scott Moe. Doug Ford continues to ignore or block anything that has an environmental impact for his corrupt developer donors.

Conservatives, who refuse the acknowledge that climate change is real, are the real problems in this country. Conservatives will undermined anything that affects their largest donor, the oil & gas industry.

To make it worse, COP 28 if full of oil & gas execs only there to undermine climate change mitigation and not offer solutions beyond greenwashing. COP 28 is nothing but a major joke now. Why even both with these useless events at this point.

John Akermanis: "Conservatives, who refuse the acknowledge that climate change is real, are the real problems in this country. Conservatives will undermined anything that affects their largest donor, the oil & gas industry."

Once again, this analysis misses the mark. It overlooks the record of the Trudeau Liberals and provincial NDP on this file. Petro-progressive parties captured by Corporate Canada, the Big Banks, and the O&G industry. A record of unforced, voluntary, wilful, deliberate climate failure.

In reality, Trudeau and Poilievre are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of climate disaster. Both parties serve Corporate Canada. Only the Liberals are far more effective.

The petro-progressive provincial NDP and federal Liberals are not in a tug-of-war with Conservatives over climate. They are dance partners.
The climate plans of the Liberals and provincial NDP are premised on fossil-fuel expansion. It's the Liberals and NDP who ignore the science and undermine the climate movement.
The NDP and Liberals promote fossil-fuel expansion and take science-based options off the table. This allows the "conservatives" to shift even further right, doubling down on denial and fossil fuel intransigence. But it's Notley and Trudeau who shift the Overton window.
It's Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan who shut down the space for science-based climate policy. Backsliding petro-progressive governments are instrumental in the rise of right-wing extremism and denialism.

Liberal climate highlights:
- Buying and building a new oilsands export pipeline (Trans Mtn expansion) at huge loss to taxpayers.
- Approving new LNG projects in B.C.- Approving new offshore oil projects on the East Coast (Bay du Nord).
- Subsidies: The Liberals continue to funnel billions of public dollars to the massively profitable, largely foreign-owned O&G industry.
"Canada leads G20 in financing fossil fuels, lags in renewables funding, report says" (CP, 2021)
"Canada's billions in fossil fuel subsidies under mounting scrutiny" (National Observer, 2023)
- Big bets on fake climate solutions: taxpayer-funded white elephants like carbon capture, SMRs, and blue hydrogen that are costly, inefficient, don't exist yet, or don't work.
- Carbon pricing schemes that shield large industrial emitters from carbon pricing. [- Latest cave-in to Atlantic MPs on the carbon "tax" for heating oil. Undermining the Liberals' signature climate policy.

Canada's climate plan is based on fossil fuel expansion. Trudeau's (actually, corporate Canada's) idea is to "green" (i.e., greenwash) its fossil fuels at the upstream end, not get off them. Incoherent climate policy designed to fail.
When the IPCC issued its latest report, then-Environment Minister "Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels."
"Ottawa says it must maximize revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline to fight climate change" (CBC, 2021)

"Canada is a continually bad actor on the global stage, despite protests that Justin Trudeau is ruining the oilsands. Drawing on research from Quebec's French-language newspaper Le Devoir, the New Democratic Party has argued Trudeau has been kinder to Big Oil than Stephen Harper ever was. He has also been crueller to the most vulnerable."
"Oil and gas approvals spell ecocide" (National Observer, 2023)

"REALITY CHECK: Climate crisis: Justin Trudeau worse than Harper
NDP, 2021
"For six years in office, Justin Trudeau has pretended to care about the climate crisis, 'the climate crisis is real, and we have the best plan to fight it', but, under Justin Trudeau:
- "Subsidies to oil companies are higher than they were under Prime Minister Harper.
- "$4.5 billion of public money was used to buy a pipeline.
- "Canada has the most GHG emissions in the G7 per capita.
- "Greenhouse gases emitted by the federal government have increased by 11%.
- "Canada is the only G7 country where GHG emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement."]

Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%." Something Harper, Scheer, Kenney, Smith, and Poilievre could never dream of doing.

When the IPCC issued its latest report, then-Environment Minister "Wilkinson reaffirmed Canada's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but said achieving that target will require money generated by fossil fuels."
"Ottawa says it needs revenue generated by the Trans Mountain pipeline to fight climate change" (CBC, 9-Aug-21)

"Liberal MP Qualtrough says the pipeline is a 'transitionary tool' that will help fund Canada's shift to a more climate-friendly economy."

Then-Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr: "Our plan is to use this time of transition to Canada's advantage by building the infrastructure to get our resources to global markets and using the revenues to invest in clean forms of energy." (2018)

"Federal minister open to sacrificing part of marine refuge for oil discovery" (National Observer, June 6th 2023)
"Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson is open to removing conservation protections off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador if there is a major oil discovery in the area.
"'I'm not going to prejudge what is going to come out of the exploration, but that will be a discussion for down the road. If there is a decision to proceed with production and it goes through the various environmental assessment processes, then we would remove it from the protected status that Canada has put in place,' he told the CBC."

"Feds approve offshore oil project days after IPCC begged world to say no to oil and gas" (National Observer, 2022)

Up until the last minute before Pres. Biden cancelled Keystone XL, the Trudeau govt was still advertising that Canada's climate plan had room for new export pipelines transporting oilsands bitumen.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the U.S.: "Keystone XL fits within Canada's climate plan" (National Observer, 2021)

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)

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco calls out the Liberals on their "policy incoherence" on climate.
"… Canada is the only G7 country to have higher emissions today than when … all industrial countries came together in 1992 to fight climate change. Since 1990, 'no other G7 country has [had] any increase in emissions. All of the others have decreased from say two per cent to close to 40 per cent, so we're really an outlier."
The Liberals' climate plan is criticized across the spectrum for its duplicity.
"Federal watchdog warns Canada's 2030 emissions target may not be achievable" (CBC, 2022)

Mark Jaccard's "climate-sincere" Liberals.
Know thy enemy.

Climate policy is big policy. It all needs the direct support of Parliament. The big one, for me, is the admission that we have to stop building new housing subdivisions with gas networks. We should stop immediately, have it only be legal to have electrical heating for air and water. Then we need a program to move in heat-pumps neighbourhood by neighbourhood, with the gas mains to the whole area shut down.

That's huge. That destroys multiple industries (imagine working at a gas-furnace factory) and it can't be done with a pen stroke.

We could use a "climate ombudsman". That would be an official designated as such to the end of one administration, would agree to leave public service at that time, and retire. And would be utterly free to say anything during those four years: like the unspeakable, unmentionable program I just outlined. Would be free to call fossil executives any name.

It might be hard finding volunteers - as Biden indicates, these guys never believe they should retire - but what a fun job.

Sounds perfect in tandem with all this building on the horizon, and obvious as hell, like so many things.
Also like the idea of a climate "czar" instead of "ombudsman" because it's a less stodgy word, sans "man," and so more compatible with the level of change needed.