Thursday, June 30, 2016

North American Leaders Unite to Combat Climate Change and Protect the Environment

North America is setting the pace for international climate and environmental cooperation. At a summit hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday June 29th, American President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced an historic continent wide clean energy plan. The deal known as the North American climate, clean energy and environment partnership contains "aggressive but achievable" goals.

The three "Amigos" agreed to an unprecedented North America clean energy partnership. They also agreed to work with indigenous people on environmental issues and protect the rights of the LGBT community. As a tangible refutation of the Brexit and Donald Trump's isolationist policy stance the three leaders emphasized the importance of working closely together.

Clean energy

The ambitious clean energy and GHG reduction targets are unprecedented. As part of the deal half of the continent's power generation will be from clean sources by 2025. As of 2015 37 percent of the continents energy was derived from clean sources. New cross-border transmission lines will be build and energy will be traded across the continent. Clean energy efforts include hydropower, wind, solar, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, as well as from energy efficiency measures. Canada currently produces 81 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric, solar, wind and nuclear power generation. In the US only 33 percent of the nations electricity is derived from clean sources and in Mexico that number is around 20 percent. According to a White House statement the US will ramp-up clean energy production to 1,900 billion kWh.

Methane reductions

Methane emissions will be cut by by 40-45 per cent by 2025 (methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe). The methane reduction strategy will apply specifically the oil and gas sector, agriculture and waste management.

Black carbon

In addition to the above they agreed to cut black carbon emissions. Black carbon is the most light-absorbing component of particulate matter (PM), and is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. Black carbon is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles.

Vehicle emissions standards

The three nations agreed to increase the use of low or zero emission vehicles in government fleets. They also agreed to establish “world-class ultra low-sulphur diesel fuel and heavy-duty vehicle standards.” These uel efficiency and/or GHG emission standards for light- and heavy-duty vehicles will be in place by 2025 and 2027, respectively. They further agreed to slash emissions in the airline and shipping industries.

Fossil fuels

The three acknowledged the need to minimize the GHGs emitted in fossil fuel extraction. They agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Paris agreement

They also agreed to implement the Paris Agreement across the continent, limit temperature rise to below 2 C. As the three explained in a press release: "The Paris Agreement was a turning point for our planet. Our actions to align climate and energy policies will protect human health and help level the playing field for our businesses, households and workers."

Wildlife protections

The three agreed to increase protections for migratory species habitat and work together to protect North America’s eastern Monarch butterfly populations by conserving habitats by 2020.

"Top on the agenda is a set of energy and environmental strategies intended to strengthen all three economies while defending their citizens’ health and the region´s natural resources." explained Mario Molina and Fred Krupp. "Without common standards, it’s a race to the bottom."

Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. Mario Molina is a is a Mexican chemist and co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in explaining the threat to the Earth's ozone layer.

The three amigos concluded by calling for more emissions reductions from the G20.

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