The recent official visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the United Stated, the first in almost two decades, has moved both countries ahead of the climate curve. The following article was posted by Ken Berlin, the president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project. Ken has devoted his career to leadership on environment, energy and climate change issues. (Rolly Montpellier ~ Editor for BoomerWarrior).
Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik AP on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Moving Ahead of the Climate Curve
The two countries made a historic and precedent-setting announcement to curb methane emissions. In addition to pledging cooperation on implementing their emissions reduction commitments under the Paris agreement, advancing clean energy and preserving the Arctic, the two North American countries both committed to cutting methane emissions from their oil and gas sectors by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 and to explore additional avenues for reducing methane emissions.
While at first glance this announcement may seem to have a particularly niche focus, it is critically important to helping solve the climate crisis in three key ways:
1. The Announcement Demonstrates Continued Momentum for Internationally Agreed-Upon Climate Action
Last December, a year of bilateral announcements and national emissions reduction commitments culminated in the Paris agreement, where the entire global community made a historic agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It was an exhilarating moment. But now countries around the world must turn their attention to the hard work of implementing their plans and increasing the ambition of their commitments over time.
This agreement between the U.S. and Canada is exactly the kind of inspiring, additive action we need to continue the momentum from Paris. The more joint announcements, the more ambition can be increased, the more countries expand their actions to include global warming emissions beyond carbon dioxide, the greater our chances become of winning the climate fight.
2. The New Plan Expands Upon Existing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safeguards on Methane
Although carbon dioxide is the global warming pollutant with which most people are familiar, methane is nevertheless a highly potent greenhouse gas that, according to Environmental Defense Fund is responsible for about a quarter of today’s global warming. The U.S. and Canada are among the top five largest emitters of oil and gas-sector methane in the world. And in the U.S. alone, oil and gas operations leak enough methane to power millions of homes.
The U.S. EPA was already in the process of developing new rules to limit methane emissions from new oil and gas operations. The U.S. and Canada’s announcement sets into motion a process for the EPA to not only look at new facilities, but to take action on existing sources of methane as well.
3. Canada’s National Government is Echoing the Will of Its People and Provinces
There is a reason we held a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Toronto last year: Canada is a crucial player in the climate fight. In recent years, the country seemed to be on the wrong track at the national level, backing away from any leadership role on climate change. But courageous regional leaders like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and local activists like our Canadian Climate Reality Leaders continued calling for stronger climate action as Alberta, traditionally a fossil fuel stronghold, elected a government that unveiled a plan for both an economy-wide carbon tax and a cap on pollution from oil sands last November. Today, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the national government has chartered a new course on climate action that better reflects the will of its people and regional leaders.
- This bilateral agreement is a big deal for the climate. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas emitter in the US and in Canada, and is also responsible for a number of health issues like nausea and headaches. By agreeing to put forth this new proposal, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, the US and Canada would be slashing the equivalent in emissions from a third of the world’s coal plants.
- The Obama-Trudeau meeting signals a new era in climate diplomacy. Trudeau aggressively campaigned for “real change” on climate, and after ousting 10 years of Conservative leadership from office, the people he represents are holding him to his word. While Trudeau still has a lot to prove when it comes to his position on pipelines, two major world leaders aligning their progressive vision for a low carbon future is another significant step.
- With these two major leaders on board, now is the moment for the rest of the world to get on track. South of the US border, Mexico has an opportunity to get in on the action when all three North American nations strive to partner on climate later this year. Meetings at the G7 in Japan, the G20 in Beijing and China’s highly anticipated five year plan, are all other big moments for nations to cement their post-Paris climate legacy.
- “This broad array of initiatives herald a new day in our cross-border partnership to combat dangerous climate change and transition to a cleaner and more prosperous economy. It also will protect our shared Arctic environment while supporting the indigenous communities who call it home. We look forward to working with the Obama and Trudeau administrations to translate these commitments into meaningful actions.” – Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council
- “By jointly committing to act on the climate crisis, grow our clean energy economy, and protect our shared pristine wild places, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are showing what can be achieved when neighbors work together.” – Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director
- “In Paris, world leaders made a promise to move the world beyond fossil fuels […] We intend to hold them to it and do everything we can to accelerate that transition. This problem is ultimately a race against the clock. Luckily, this movement is beginning to really hit its stride.” –May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org
- “The fact that this is being raised at the highest levels shows that both countries recognize the Arctic is a real, emerging priority.” – Gerald Butts, senior political adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer) and Global Population Speakout.