Guilbeault serves as 'executive chairperson' on climate committee with ties to Beijing

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault's rapport with China — a country who uses coal to produce 61% of its electricity — contrasts his push to outlaw the operation of coal-fired power plants in Canada.

Guilbeault serves as 'executive chairperson' on climate committee with ties to Beijing
The Canadian Press / Graham Hughes
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Amid a political firestorm on 'net-zero' electricity and phasing out 'unabated' fossil fuels, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is off to China to combat 'climate change' with the world's largest industrial polluter.

According to Guilbeault's itinerary, he'll be in Beijing from August 26–31 to attend the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), an entity of China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

The minister is listed as an executive vice chairperson of the executive committee alongside Ding Xuexiang, a top Chinese Communist Party official. 

"The whole world is being confronted by the triple crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss," said Environment Canada in a statement.

"These crises know no geopolitical borders and require urgent international cooperation. Addressing global environmental challenges requires China's engagement."

The junket comes amid the feds' idle threats to the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who refuse to abide by the draft electricity regulations.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith called the regulations "unconstitutional" and "irresponsible."

"They will not be implemented in our province — period," Smith vowed on August 10.

Her environment minister, Rebecca Schulz, said the rules set the stage for an astronomically expensive and unreliable power supply.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, meanwhile, said the Trudeau government's "net-zero targets are simply not achievable."

"We will not ask our residents to pay the extraordinary price for the federal government's divisive policies. Nor will we risk the integrity of our provincial power grid to defy the laws of thermodynamics."

The controversial junket coincides with calls for a public inquiry into foreign interference by China in the 2019 and 2021 general elections.

In an interview with the National Observer, Guilbeault expressed interest in making China an ally in combating 'climate change' despite the Asiatic superpower consuming over half the world's coal to power its grid. 

Last year, coal generated about 61% of the country's electricity — down from 80% in 2010. However, the absolute electricity production volume from coal hit an all-time high in 2022 and has quintupled since 2000.

The minister said his aim is not to tell China what to do but to look for common ground.

"I certainly would like to see [if] there are things we can agree to work on together in the lead-up to COP28 and the lead-up to COP16," he said.

COP, or the Conference of the Parties, is an annual climate summit hosted by the United Nations, with COP28 slated for December in Dubai. China chaired the previous meeting (COP15) in Montreal last December.

Guilbeault's rapport with China contrasts his push to outlaw the operation of coal-fired power plants in Canada without technology to reduce carbon emissions.

On May 17, the Saskatchewan Party and NDP Opposition voted unanimously not to phase out conventional coal by 2030.

Rebel News asked Smith if she would consider keeping Alberta's coal plants open past 2023 to keep electricity costs down for residents. As it stands, they are slated to be decommissioned seven years before the federal government timeline.

She replied: "We are based principally on natural gas, and Saskatchewan is based on a combination of coal and natural gas.

"Alberta is in a different position than Saskatchewan because of a 'very aggressive' transition to natural gas," continued Smith. "I understand the last of those conversions will be finished this year or next."

Guilbeault acknowledged criticism for the trip is likely. "Maybe some [political opponents] will try and attack me," he said.

"I am clearly a lightning rod for some of them, but Canadians, in general, will understand how important it is. We can't solve climate change. You can't solve the international biodiversity issue without working with countries like China."

Given China is a significant consumer of fossil fuels, and Canada is a top producer, there's room for conversation about "how we can work together on that in the lead-up to COP28," he said.

Guilbeault hopes the junket 'breathes life' into the global biodiversity framework inked last year in Montreal to avoid becoming another set of unmet targets.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), an agreement which commits countries to protect 30% of land and oceans by 2030, calls on richer countries to provide poorer nations with $200 billion to protect nature by the decade's end.

Guilbeault also cited the phasing out of fossil fuels as another contentious topic after the G20 failed to progress before COP28.

The G20 convention failed to define "unabated" fossil fuels, with India blocking a similar definition of 'unabated' that applied explicitly to coal.

The member states could not define 'renewable' or 'low-carbon' energy technologies nor enunciate the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and what constitutes 'green' hydrogen.

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