This article examines the opportunity Prime Minister-elect Trudeau has to return Canada to a positive role during the forthcoming Paris conference on the environment and to establish a national plan to address climate change by working cooperatively with the provinces.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What positive actions on environmental issues are likely to occur with a Trudeau government in place?
  • What role can we expect Canada to play in the upcoming environmental conference in Paris?
  • What are the opportunities for Canada to establish a national plan to address climate change?

New Terminology:

Carbon tax, cap and trade

Materials Needed:

  • Access to the Internet
  • Two periods to complete the lesson
Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

After years of being seen as a blocker and a laggard on environmental action under the Harper Conservative government, Canada, now under a Trudeau-led Liberal government, heads to the international conference in Paris, France, in late November with a renewed commitment to play an active role in developing positive actions to address climate change. This changing role should be heralded by the international community and help restore Canada’s image as a responsible global partner.

But how will this role be different? For starters, Trudeau, unlike Harper, is taking an inclusive position and inviting not only some opposition members but also provincial premiers to join him in the delegation to Paris. In addition, he has promised to convene a Canadian first ministers’ meeting within 90 days of the conclusion of the Paris conference to begin discussions on the creation of a federal-provincial plan to address climate change. The creation of a plan will not, however, come easily despite everyone’s best intentions. There is quite a divergence of strategies across the country as a result of a lack of leadership from the Harper Conservatives, which forced those provinces that wanted to address climate change to go it alone. Trudeau, however, is setting the stage for positive results. He has stated that new targets on carbon emissions will not be set until there is a federal-provincial plan and, unlike Harper who refused to meet collectively with the premiers, Trudeau, as mentioned, has committed to meeting with the premiers as a group. This cooperative and inclusive approach will hopefully lead to positive discussions and action.

This lesson will have the students examine the likely change in Canada’s behaviour at the upcoming Paris conference and examine the challenges that will face Canada as a country as it endeavours to develop a national plan to address climate change.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Ask the students to assume (if they are not already identified as such) that they are individuals who actively care about the environment and the effects of climate change and ask them to explain why they might be excited that the Trudeau Liberals won the election.
  • List the reasons that they give.
  • With this accomplished put the students in groups of five or six.
  • Inform the students that the next international conference on the environment is scheduled for late November in Paris, France.
  • Ask the groups to research the aims of the upcoming Paris conference and to identify how they believe Canada’s actions will be different at the conference, explaining the reasons for the differences.
  • Allow them time to complete this task and then have each group report its findings.
  • With this completed, explain to the class that Trudeau has promised to convene a first ministers’ meeting within 90 days of the completion of the Paris conference to formally begin the process of developing a federal-provincial plan to address climate change.
  • Provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Ask the groups to now address the following questions:
    1. How difficult do you believe it is going to be to finalize a federal-provincial plan? Why?
    2. What role should the federal government play in such a plan?
    3. What role should the provinces play in such a plan?
    4. Should there be one approach or should there be flexibility in the national plan?
  • Allow the groups the remainder of class time to complete this task.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Begin the second period of the lesson by having each group report its findings and answering any questions or challenges that may come from the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • identify how Canada’s role will be different in the upcoming Paris conference on the environment.
  • explain some of the challenges facing Canada as it strives to develop a national plan to address climate change.
  • outline what role they believe both the provinces and the federal government should play in the development of such a plan.

Confirming Activity:

  • As a concluding activity have the students complete and hand in a brief written assignment explaining what strategy they believe their province or territory should employ to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.