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Former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna Joins Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former Minister of Environment and Climate Change, is joining Columbia University as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow with Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP). In this role, she plans to work on practical solutions to help scale climate action with CGEP and the new Columbia Climate School. The areas she will focus on include: accelerating the transition from coal to clean energy, advancing work on carbon pricing, border carbon adjustments and carbon markets, and supporting women’s climate leadership.

“The climate threat is the greatest crisis facing humanity today. We need new models of thinking and systems change to ambitiously tackle climate change now,” said McKenna. “I’m excited to work with the Center on Global Energy Policy and the Columbia Climate School, the first school of its kind in the US — to engage with its incredible students and faculty on practical solutions to the climate crisis. We urgently need to accelerate the global transition from coal to clean energy and ensure a just transition for workers and communities. We also need to expand carbon pricing and move forward on border carbon adjustments to address competitiveness and develop more effective carbon markets. And critically, we need to support and empower women and girls who are leading the fight against climate change.”

McKenna is the founder and principal of Climate and Nature Solutions and recently launched “Women Leading on Climate” at COP26 in Glasgow last November. As Canada’s first Minister of Environment and Climate Change in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, she was a lead negotiator of the Paris Agreement (in particular Article 6 concerning carbon markets) before introducing and successfully defending landmark legislation that established a carbon price across Canada. She also led efforts to phase out coal and established Canada’s first Just Transition Taskforce for workers and communities, reduce plastics in oceans and waterways, and double the amount of nature protected in Canada in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

“Catherine is a tour de force,” said Jason Bordoff, CGEP Director. “Her energy and spirit along with her leadership and practical experience are what’s needed if we’re to have a meaningful impact in solving the climate crisis. We’re delighted she chose to come to Columbia to bring all these qualities and much more to the students and faculty working on these critical issues.”

As Minister of Environment and Climate Change, McKenna helped establish a number of international initiatives including the Powering Past Coal Coalition (with Canada, the UK and Bloomberg Philanthropies), the Ministerial on Climate Action (MOCA), the Women Kicking it on Climate Summit and the Nature Champions Summit. McKenna was Co-Chair of the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, and helped develop the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter. She has worked closely with members of the Obama and Biden administrations on Canada-US and international climate and infrastructure agreements and policy.

She later became Minister of Infrastructure and Communities where she made historic investments in public transit and green and resilient infrastructure, leveraged private sector investment to get more public infrastructure built through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and led the development of Canada’s first National Infrastructure Assessment to drive Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050.

A mother of three, today she is focused on scaling climate and nature-based solutions to drastically reduce global emissions by 2030 including by empowering women and girls and through public-private partnerships.

Tune in to the latest Columbia Energy Exchange podcast with McKenna as she discusses her life and this new stage in her career. 

Read Catherine McKenna’s full bio here.

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