The meeting on the environment organized by the Chinese regime and attended by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault commenced Aug. 28 in Beijing.
The China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED) will have its annual general meeting until Aug. 30 under the theme “Green Transition for High-Quality Development Modernization in Harmony with Nature.”
Mr. Guilbeault, as an executive vice chairperson of the communist-led body, was expected to deliver a keynote speech on Aug. 28, according to a tentative program shared by the CCICED on social media.
Canada helped with the establishment of the CCICED in 1992 and, as its largest international donor, gets to appoint an executive vice chairperson. Previous Canadian environment ministers have also occupied the role.
Mr. Guilbeault’s office has called the CCICED an “independent international forum,” but it’s chaired by a top member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The body is overseen by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China and supports the country’s national five-year plans.
“Climate change and environmental issues know no borders. We cannot tackle these existential threats without engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and partners,” Mr. Guilbeault said in an Aug. 25 statement.
He previously told Radio-Canada that after a summer of severe weather, Canadians might find a ministerial visit to China on the theme of climate change more palatable.
The public has been sensitized in recent months to Beijing’s interference in Canadian democracy after multiple national security leaks in the press.
Political parties have engaged in negotiations and the government is looking to find a suitable candidate to serve as commissioner for a public inquiry into the matter.
The Conservatives have called for Mr. Guilbeault to resign from the CCICED and to cancel his trip to China, but he brushed it off. Mr. Guilbeault also didn’t commit to raising the issue of election interference, according to CBC News.
“We will confront them when we have to confront them,” Mr. Guilbeault told the public broadcaster. “But we will also cooperate on issues like climate change and nature.”
Mr. Guilbeault’s six-day visit in China is the first by a minister since 2019. Then-minister of export promotion Mary Ng went to China in 2019 to attend a meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Beijing significantly reduced high-level bilateral interactions with Canada following the arrest of Meng Wangzhou on a U.S. extradition request in late 2018. Ms. Weng was Huawei’s chief financial officer at the time.
Mr. Guilbeault told Radio-Canada the trip could be an opportunity to rebuild ties with China.
He told Reuters on Aug. 25 the key issues he wishes to address with Beijing are methane emissions reductions and a global renewable energy target.
“There’s a lot of low-hanging fruits in terms of methane emission,” he said. “This is a conversation we can have with the Chinese government and … maybe we could work on that together.”