Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has sought to cast Canada as a global leader in combating climate change, particularly since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington’s support for an international deal to curb global warming.
But Trudeau’s government is also seeking to expand the country’s oil industry. Canada agreed in May to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline for $3.46 billion (C$4.5 billion) to save a controversial expansion of the line, which will nearly triple the amount of oil moving from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast.
“You have to do both,” Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change, said in phone interview from San Francisco where she was attending the Global Climate Action Summit.
“I don’t make any apologies for our need to get resources to market. I need to be working for all Canadians,” she said.
More than 100,000 people are employed by oil and gas companies in the province of Alberta, the center of Canada’s extraction industries.
The summit, which was meant to highlight international efforts to curb climate change, was targeted by demonstrators demanding an end to oil extraction, particularly in host state California.
Governor Jerry Brown told Reuters earlier this week that his priority was to reduce the state’s demand for oil, not to try to stop the state’s oil production.
At the summit, McKenna said she was highlighting climate change as a jobs and economic opportunity for Canada through the expansion of clean technologies, and the nation’s effort to roll out a carbon tax.
“We need to make decisions that are good for the environment and for the economy, and the good news is that in the 21st century they go together,” McKenna said.
But, she added, “These things are really hard to get right.”
McKenna said her top priority at the meeting, however, was not about climate change, but rather to promote the importance of trade amid Canada’s delicate talks with the United States on renewing the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Certainly my top message, of course, is that trade is good for U.S. states,” said McKenna, who met with officials from California, Washington and Hawaii, among other states. “Obviously beyond that it’s really about what joint climate action we can all be doing.”