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climate change talks

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on at the start of the Climate Action Special Executive Session at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valletta, Malta, November 27, 2015.DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's hoping to encourage one of the lynchpins for global climate-change talks, India's Narendra Modi, to take ambitious action, assuring him richer nations including Canada are stepping up to help finance developing nations' transition to a greener economy.

It's less than a month since Mr. Trudeau took power, and radically altered Canada's climate-change approach. But Mr. Trudeau insists Canada has a compelling argument, and can use it to encourage others.

India is now considered a crucial nation for the global climate change talks that officially open in Paris in Monday, especially since the U.S. and China agreed to set emissions goals last year. After China, the United States, and Europe, India is the planet's other major source of greenhouse-gas emissions, but it argues it must keep using fossil fuels, and expanding emissions, to bring electricity and economic development to its huge population.

"I am hoping to sit down with Prime Minister Modi tomorrow evening and to further encourage him to take clear action, and also to highlight once again that Canada is committed to aiding developing countries in reaching their emissions goals." Mr. Trudeau said Saturday at a press conference just before he left the Commonwealth summit in Malta to attend the Paris talks.

"The atmosphere doesn't care where carbon is emitted. It requires us to take action all around the world."

Mr. Trudeau's message that wealthier nations will help fund emissions-reduction projects for developing nations is a key one for many developing nations, including India. The prime minister noted that on Friday his government announced it would put $2.65-billion into those projects over the next five years.

But no one could argue that sum matches the scale of the challenge in India – a country working, for example, to bring electricity to 300 million people who don't have it. India plans to massively expand its use of energy sources like wind and nuclear, so that a greater proportion of its energy comes from renewable sources, but to meet the demand, it will also double or triple its use of coal in the next 15 years.

India's prime minister argues that developed nations have emitted most of the greenhouse-gases over the past century as they developed economically, and India must develop now. And they have reason to claim other nations are far worse: per capita, Canadians emit more than 12 times as much greenhouse gases as Indians, according to the figures of the World Resources Institute.

Mr. Trudeau, who insisted his government is now working hard on climate diplomacy to push other nations to agree to an ambitious deal in Paris, said he has a case to make to India's leader.

"I will continue to express to Prime Minister Modi … that to build a strong economy you need to engage with environmental responsibility," Mr. Trudeau said. "That development on its own is not going to do much good if the world passes its two-degree catastrophic warming threshold, that we need to work together, and that the developed world is ready to step up and help finance the kinds of investments that are going to make a huge difference."

Mr. Trudeau argued that Canada has a compelling story for other nations – though some other nations might note the country doesn't have a compelling record on cutting emissions. The new Liberal government is arriving in Paris offering the same emissions reduction targets set by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper, but Mr. Trudeau insists the difference is that he will develop a plan to reach targets, and cut emissions, working with premiers.

Other nations might listen, he suggested, because Canada has a lot of excuses it could use to avoid action, like its fossil-fuel industry, size, or weather, but is deciding to act.

"There are lots of reasons for Canada to say that maybe we're not as motivated to act on climate change as some other countries that, faced with a rising sea level, look like they might cease to exist 50 or 100 years from now," he said.

"But being from a country that would be able to make excuses like that, and has in the past, and saying no, we're not going to start making excuses, we're going to recognize that this is of concern not just to the world but to Canadians, this is something that we as a country are going to engage with, or indeed lead on, is a very compelling message."

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