By Zyad Osman, Staff Writer

Environment Minister, Steven Guilbeault, giving his opening remarks at this year’s COP27 UN climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt | Obtained via Getty Images | Image by: Dominika Zarzycka

On the 31st of October, Climate Canada published its annual winter climate predictions, revealing above-average temperatures all through the winter in Ontario and Québec. Weather forecasting service AccuWeather also predicts significantly less snowfall throughout December and January compared to previous years. Both of these predictions come just after a record-breaking summer with heatwave advisories issued all over the country—notably in British Columbia where temperatures broke 40℃ for the first time ever in some locations.

The timing of these predictions is ironic as world leaders just concluded on November 20th the annual, international climate change conference, COP27, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Originally intended to end two days prior, delegates continued negotiating fiercely and well into the weekend to achieve consensus on a breakthrough deal. The deal, which established an international fund to compensate impoverished countries impacted by climate change, was hailed by delegates present at the conference — including Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault — as a groundbreaking achievement that will carry on the legacy of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. However, activists have been skeptical and pessimistic about the prospects of implementing policies that will keep the average global climate increase under 1.5℃. 

This year’s COP conference was plagued with issues before it even started, mainly related to activists upset about the lack of space dedicated to civil society groups for campaigning. Famed Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said during a book release in October: “The COPs are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing,” here referring to the host country, Egypt’s, abysmal human rights record, possibly implying it was unfit to host the conference. 

Additionally, Canada’s commitment to climate policies is coming under increasing scrutiny as it seemed for a while during the conference that Guilbeault and the Canadian delegation (which unlike others did not include the Prime Minister) would succumb to pressure from India, China, and lobbyist groups to soften the language used in fossil fuel phase-out legislation. This would not be the first time that the Trudeau administration would come under scrutiny for its often contradictory stance on the climate issue. In June 2019, the Prime Minister declared a national climate emergency, but unlike Canada’s Emergencies Act, just a declaration does not grant the head of government any extraordinary powers to address highlighted climate issues. The following day, the Canadian government also approved the construction of the Trans-Mountain oil pipeline in Alberta to the dismay of activists and civil society groups.

Should international progress towards real climate action continue to drag, the above-average winter predictions may become a future norm. And for those who enjoy warmer winters, this may also imply accompanying extreme heat waves during warmer seasons…