A climate change strategy for all of North America could transform how we address a defining issue of our time. The move would be unprecedented, but it is more possible than ever. Heads of state from Canada, Mexico and the United States have the opportunity at this week’s North American Leadership Summit in Ottawa to begin the process by setting out some strong continent-wide actions for combating climate change.
For the first time in recent memory U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto are all on the same page on the importance and urgency of climate action.
To help spur action during the summit, six leading research institutions from across the continent have teamed up to create “Proposals for a North American Climate Strategy,” a letter heads of state could use to form the basis of a coordinated climate action plan. The document lays out possible ways in which the U.S., Canada and Mexico can collaborate to take action to deliver economic benefits along with greater resilience for communities. The partner institutions are encouraging leaders to take advantage of this rare window of opportunity and set North America on a path to a strong, low-carbon economy.
WRI, along with our partner organizations and many others, are doing everything we can to encourage these leaders to take advantage of this rare opportunity. We need to set North America on a path to a more sustainable future.
The latest extreme weather reinforces the need for urgent action. It seems like every week temperature records are being broken and that there is a new report about forest fires, droughts, heat waves, dying trees and other threats to places we love and live. 2016 is on course to beat out 2015 as the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880. Across North America and the world, the impacts from climate change are mounting.
Countries have taken notice, and are now working on a solution. Since December’s Paris Agreement, countries have turned their attention to meeting domestic climate action goals. By working together, the U.S., Canada and Mexico can take cross-border action to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Three key areas to watch:
1. Methane Emissions
This year, the United States and Canada agreed to work to reduce methane emissions. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is responsible for as much as one quarter of human made climate change, so reducing methane emission is vital to achieving pollution reduction goals. Leaders from the three nations can set a North American target to reduce methane emissions. This target would build upon the existing pledge from the U.S. and Canada. As natural gas supplants other fossil fuels, regulating methane across the continent is paramount.
2. Renewable Energy
Meeting together, the three leaders have the opportunity to set a continent-wide renewable energy goal. Clean power is a job creator and by shifting away from dirty fossil fuels to carbon-free alternatives, communities can benefit not only through helping to dampen the impacts of climate change, but by avoiding the toxic affects of pollution.
Working across borders to promote clean energy will help accelerate the cost reductions that renewables have already realized in recent years, and make power sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric even more cost competitive with fossils. We've already seen important cross-border energy projects but by setting a clear North American renewables target, President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Peña Nieto can help foster a boom in new clean power.
3. International Leadership
International groups like the European Union were pivotal players during the negotiations with the 195 countries who helped craft the Paris Agreement. By working together, the U.S., Canada and Mexico could also form a powerful bloc in the international community and UN climate change process. Climate change can’t be stopped by one country acting alone, but together we can address the most pressing issue facing the planet.