COP15 Begins in Montreal, Showcasing Rare Canada-China Cooperation

COP15, kicking off this week, will bring close to 20,000 delegates to Montreal to guide actions to halt and reverse nature loss. It’s a truly global conference: representatives from more than 190 countries are attending, mingling with big players like UN Secretary-General António Guterres. But at its core, the conference is an example of increasingly rare Canada-China co-operation — and a template for what bilateral co-operation may look like under Canada’s new Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS).

Canada to the rescue?

China was supposed to host this part of COP15 in Kunming, but kept delayingthe conference over COVID-19 anxieties. Canada formally agreed to host COP15 in June, leaving the formal COP15 presidency to China. Co-operation has only intensified since June: last week, China’s environment minister published a message in The Hill Times, stating that, over the past few months, “China has been proactively cooperating with Canada” and that he has “maintained close communication” with Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault.

A balancing act

Canada’s IPS established strict parameters for co-operation with an “increasingly disruptive” China, singling out “climate change and biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation.” COP15 is a promising opening act in this respect, but it doesn’t guarantee good relations across the board. For example, a government official told reporters just last week that Canada will decide “shortly” on formally pursuing a foreign investment promotion and protection arrangement (FIPA) with Taiwan. Such a move would irk the Chinese Communist Party, pouring cold water on any COP15-derived progress. For the time being, though, Canada and China will bask in this brief biodiversity détente, working together towards a shared goal.