Canada's environment minister says she hopes a durable, binding agreement will be reached at next week's climate summit in Paris.
But any eventual targets set by countries involved in the negotiations likely won't be legally enforceable internationally because the United States isn't prepared to accept that as a condition for reaching a deal, Catherine McKenna said Friday before leaving for the French capital.
"We don't expect that the targets will be internationally legally binding," McKenna said during a teleconference, suggesting that Canada hopes instead that any deal reached in Paris includes provisions to effectively shame countries into meeting their promised greenhouse gas reduction goals.
"We do support the fact that all parties have a legal obligation to submit a commitment under the agreement and that also the commitment will be updated every five years and in addition to that, that they will have a legal requirement to adhere to provisions with respect to transparency and accountability."
McKenna added that no one expects Canada to announce its own national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Paris.
Instead, the federal government has committed to meeting the provinces and territories within 90 days of the summit to begin developing a national climate change strategy.
The minister also acknowledged Friday that Ottawa currently doesn't have the ability to force provinces and territories to live up to their climate change commitments, but wants a mechanism in place by the time ministers come up with a national emissions target.
"I will be clear that every province and territory is going to be expected to do their part," said McKenna.
Some provinces have already unveiled bold plans for reducing emissions, she noted.
"We have already seen very good advances when it comes to the provinces and territories coming up with their climate change plans."
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has been roundly applauded by environmentalists, some energy sector players and most of her provincial counterparts after unveiling a new climate policy for her province. The plan includes a carbon tax, a phase-out of coal-fired power plants and a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, the country's largest emitter.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Malta for a Commonwealth summit that has been dominated by discussions about fighting both climate change and international terrorism, announced Friday that Canada will contribute $2.65 billion over five years, to help developing countries tackle climate change.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has already given indications that he could be disappointed in Canada's performance in Paris, saying Friday that, without firm CO2 reduction targets, the summit will be a failure.
And while Mulcair said the Liberal government appears headed in the right direction, it needs to follow through.
"I welcome the new government's tone on climate change," said Mulcair. "But words must be backed by a plan and real action."
Mulcair says the Liberal government should be going into the summit with something more ambitious than climate change targets put forward by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
McKenna has said her government considers the Harper target — a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 — to be the least Canada can do.
Canada is currently on track to fall far short of the 2020 reduction targets it agreed to at the last international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009.
The Conservative Opposition did not respond to requests to comment on the Liberal climate change plan and the party's position on the Paris summit.
With files from Kristy Kirkup