Katie Sullivan

 In Winter 2016

I T’S A TRIP,” says Katie Sullivan, Canada’s policy director at the International Emissions Trading Association. At only 35, the Ottawa native is tackling what she calls the biggest problem facing humanity: climate change. Sullivan’s job often takes her to the rarified air of United Nations climate negotiations, and though she describes her work as endlessly complicated, she says it’s also fascinating and rewarding. Energy Exchange sat down with Sullivan to learn about what’s being done about climate change on the world stage, how Canada is contributing and why the recent Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris was so important.

What’s the IETA?

The IETA came out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process in 1997 that gave us the Kyoto Protocol. The IETA was established two years later. We represent about 150 businesses around the world and across sectors, from energy and power, manufacturing, engineering, clean project developers, traders, brokers, accountants and more. We believe that carbon pricing, particularly through markets, is the core ingredient to keeping costs low while driving deep decarbonization and more ambitious climate targets. The IETA is truly global in nature. It’s an intense job, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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PETER ANDREW LUSZTYK/CAN GEO

Just how significant is the challenge of decarbonisation?

The release of one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto has the same eff ect on the climate as one tonne emitted in Tripoli, so climate change is a truly global challenge that absolutely requires a global solution. We now have governments around the world agreeing we can’t reach the tipping point of a 2 C increase in average global temperature. So it’s about deep decarbonisation that requires massive changes and massive investment. I’m talking not just millions, but trillions of dollars of new investment into how we travel, how we work, how we consume and how we use our lands to conserve carbon. It touches every facet of how economies generally operate. But the question remains, who is responsible for it and who pays for it? That becomes very challenging at the UN level.

What’s Canada’s role?

In the 1990s and early 2000s while the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated, Canada was seen as a leader, an honest broker that set ambitious targets. We walked away from our Kyoto targets, and that hasn’t been well received by the international community. Our target for 2030, a 30 per cent reduction of emissions below 2005 levels, and our pledging of $300 million to the UN’s new Green Climate Fund are good. But even if at a federal level we don’t have the best reputation, provincially and territorially we’re rock stars. There’s so much positive attention for Quebec, British Columbia and where Ontario is going. I think federally Canada realizes that if we stick to our provincial plans, Canada in aggregate will be okay.