OTTAWA — Canada will keep talking with the White House regardless of its position on the Paris accord because the two countries have more than just climate change to talk about, says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
McKenna heads to Italy this weekend for a G7 ministerial meeting where she hopes to have a private conversation with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.
It is her first chance to talk to him directly since President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the Paris accord, largely on Pruitt’s advice.
Pruitt is known to be a climate change skeptic. Trump has frequently tweeted his own misgivings towards climate change science, at one point calling it a “hoax” cooked up by foreign governments to make the U.S. less competitive.
Privately, the Canadian government does not believe Trump will change his mind about the Paris plan, which was signed by 195 nations in 2015 with an aim to keeping global warming to below 2 degrees C. Instead, it will seek out state and city allies in the U.S. who still support Paris.
Publicly, McKenna remains committed to diplomacy with the United States.
“Clearly, we have a difference of perspectives on the Paris Agreement, although I believe that conversations are important, so I will be once again reiterating that the Paris Agreement is very important to tackle climate change,” she said.
Canada has other environmental issues to work on beyond climate change, including clean air and clean water, so the lines of communication have to remain open, she added.
Canada’s position has been less antagonistic than many of its European G7 allies, the leaders of which have either thrown up their hands when it comes to Trump, or are even openly mocking him.
The rift between Trump and European G7 leaders, opened during last month’s meetings, has grown exponentially since Trump’s Paris announcement June 1.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned from the G7 to tell Germans the country could no longer rely on America. She is touring Central and South America ahead of next month’s G20 meeting in Germany, and is trying to bring the other 19 countries on side on climate change.
In a video posted to Facebook an hour after Trump’s Paris announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron offered refuge to American climate scientists and said Paris would “make our planet great again,” borrowing the U.S. president’s campaign slogan.
Macron’s government also seized on a video Trump posted to defend his Paris decision, annotating it to correct what France says are inaccuracies.
Canada has chosen not to align itself directly with Europe on the matter, even though its policies on Paris are the same. Merkel, Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paulo Gentiloni signed a joint letter condemning Trump’s decision and refusing to consider renegotiating Paris.
Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan were also asked to sign it, but refused. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and McKenna released their own statements instead.
Trudeau has had conversations with all the G7 leaders since the Trump Paris announcement to figure out how to keep the accord alive, and has said he intends to make it a priority issue next year, when Canada takes on the G7 presidency.
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Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press