Canada Climate Leader 2019: Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson

Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Jonathan Wilkinson, 54, has represented the North Vancouver riding, in the House of Commons of Canada since 2015. He was appointed Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) on November 20, 2019. He previously served as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard in 2018. He also served as Catherine McKenna’s ECCC parliamentary secretary from 2015-2018. He will now attend the UN’s COP25 (9) in Madrid, and participate in a panel on how to advance the use of carbon pricing to support ambitious climate action and sustainable development.  

Wilkinson’s biography notes that he was born in Ontario, raised in Saskatchewan, and graduated from the University of Saskatchewan. He then went on to become a Rhodes Scholar. He has master degrees in international relations, politics, and economics from Oxford and McGill. 

Before entering politics, Wilkinson worked for over 20 years in leadership positions at several green technology companies and management consultancies. His predecessor, Ms. McKenna, is now Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; this is a new portfolio where she’ll continue to address some environmental issues such as decarbonising public transit and improving energy efficiency. McKenna oversaw ECCC’s work on developing climate policies and carbon pricing measures under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Wilkinson will continue to implement and develop various parts of this policy.

At COP21, McKenna helped negotiate the Paris Agreement, endorsed the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, and later secured the Framework. This year, the federal government gave an ultimatum to impose a carbon tax on four provinces that didn’t support the federal emissions reduction strategy. Among Wilkinson’s first orders of business will be five-year targets and legislation to hold Canada accountable to meet them. “Environment is probably the most challenging portfolio in government and he is remarkably well suited for those challenges,” says Stewart Elgie, a law professor at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment. 

Wilkinson is quoted recently as saying “We have started the process of trying to think through the economics of how we move through this energy transition but obviously we need to do more.”  He sees clean technologies among the key solutions to Canada’s climate and economic problems.

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