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It’s Time for Countries to Work Together to Combat Global Warming

On the historic new climate agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

By Madeleine Thomas


From left: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and U.S. President Barack Obama arrive in Ottawa, Ontario, on June 29, 2016. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a historic new climate partnership requiring North America to generate half of its electricity with clean power by 2025. The new commitment could also spur the nearly 200 nations who adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement to team up and continue developing comprehensive joint climate strategies of their own.

The North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environmental Partnership, unveiled at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, includes strengthened investments in clean energy technology like smart grids and carbon capturing on coal or gas power plants, renewable energy sources and nuclear power, and a greener automotive industry.

“From Bangladesh to the Pacific Islands, rising seas are swallowing land and forcing people from their homes,” Obama said in a speech on Wednesday. “Around the world, stronger storms and more intense droughts will create humanitarian crises. This is not just a moral issue. Not just an economic issue. It is also a matter of our national security.

“For the first time in recent memory, the national governments of the United States, Mexico, and Canada are politically aligned on climate change.”

The announcement follows past attempts to coerce global cooperation to combat climate change. Some of those efforts have been successful, like the celebrated Montreal Protocol of 1987, which sought to curb amount of ozone-destroyingchlorofluorocarbons — chemicals used often in products like hair spray or air conditioners — into the atmosphere. New research shows that the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is finally starting to stall its growth the first time in 30 years, the Los Angeles Times reports.

By some accounts, Montreal’s treaty was 20 times more effective than the controversialKyoto Protocol of 1997, which set mandates for 37 industrialized nations to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. (Both the U.S. and Canada eventually pulled out of the agreement.)

Now, as average global temperatures hover exceedingly close to the two degrees Celsius threshold established in Paris last year, Wednesday’s announcementis being praised by third-party environmental groups.

“In all of these efforts, countries can be more effective acting as allies rather than alone,” a new report written by a team of international environmental researchersand the Center for American Progress states. “For the first time in recent memory, the national governments of the United States, Mexico, and Canada are politically aligned on climate change. The three countries should take this opportunity to explore and launch coordinated climate initiatives that could propel the shift to clean energy across the continent and — through international leadership — accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution globally.”

Other goals of the new Partnership:

  • Investing in greener government initiatives like clean federal vehicle fleets and equipment by the end of 2019.
  • Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 40 to 45 percent by 2025, and developing strategies to manage methane emissions from landfills, agriculture, and food waste, in accordance with the United Nations’ goal of cutting international food waste in half by 2030.
  • Greening the automotive industry by establishing more refueling corridors for clean cars throughout North America. By spring of 2017, automotive leaders and stakeholders will meet to discuss creating a more competitive and cleaner industry as well. The Partnership will also invest in methods to reduce black carbon emissions (soot) by implementing air pollution emission standards to bring exhaust from heavy-duty diesel vehicles to near-zero by 2018.
  • Conserving key pollinator habitat for species like the monarch butterfly, whose migration route begins in Mexico. The three countries will also join forces to increase habitat for migratory bird and migratory marine species, like whales, and strengthen the fight against illegal animal trafficking.
  • Collaborating on more effective early warning systems for natural disasters, and establishing a real-time surveillance system to monitor the effects of extreme heat on at-risk communities throughout North America.

In the U.S. alone, the White House predicts that jobs created by the push to renewable, hydro and nuclear energy, and the transition to a cleaner automotive industry could grow from 700,000 currently to over one million in 2025.

“For too long we’re heard that confronting climate change means destroying our own economies,” Obama added on Wednesday. “But let me just say, carbon emissions in the United States are back to where they were two decades ago, even as we’ve grown our economy dramatically over the same period. Alberta, the oil country of Canada, is working hard to reduce emissions while still promoting growth. So if Canada can do it, and the United States can do it, the whole world can unleash economic growth and protect our planet.”