The just released joint statement from the United States and Canada on climate action outlines in broad strokes the two countries’ coordinated plans to fight climate change both on the international and domestic fronts.
Internationally, the statement depicts their united support of the Paris Agreement on climate change, to be signed starting April 22nd of this year, and the Montreal Protocol on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and it highlights the countries’ joint interest in pressuring organizations like the G-20 and the International Civil Aviation Organization to implement tougher standards for carbon emissions.
On the domestic side, the statement emphasizes coordinated action on topics such as methane and HFC emissions, fuel efficiency, renewable energy and clean technology while also articulating a plan for development in the Arctic.
Garnering the most attention are the targets on methane gas, which call for a 45 per cent reduction of 2012 emission levels by the year 2025. Released during oil and gas extraction and leached from landfills and agricultural waste, methane is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and by volume is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
The joint statement’s methane targets have received support from environmental groups as well as the oil and gas industry. The Environmental Defense Fund said the United States and Canada showed real leadership in “setting a mark for other major oil and gas producing nations.” Even the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers approves of the Canadian government’s plan to regulate methane emissions. “It will be helpful to have the feds in the room to help maintain alignment across provincial jurisdictions,” says CAPP vice-president Alex Ferguson.
Not to be missed, however, is the commitment on Arctic development, or “shared Arctic leadership model,” set out in the bilateral agreement. Four elements were featured: conserving Arctic biodiversity, incorporating Indigenous knowledge into decision-making, plans for an Arctic economy and supporting Arctic peoples and communities.
Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the organization representing the peoples occupying Canada’s Arctic region, has praise for the Arctic plan, which was developed with the help of the ITK. “The fact that ITK was able to shape the wording in this agreement related to the Arctic and related to the Indigenous People was something that really showed the trust and the respect that the Canadian government has before us when it’s talking about our lands and our people,” he said.
The Arctic plan emphasizes policy-making guided by traditional and Indigenous understandings of the North and its people while at the same time stressing the importance of science-based decision-making within the process. Indeed, there are eleven references to science and science-based reasoning in the document, most of them within the Arctic section. (Presumably, the distinction is between policy directed by empirical science on climate change and policy directed by the concerns of special interest groups – governments and corporations, for example.)
And while it remains to be seen how and even if Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous science factor into the Arctic development agendas of Canada and the U.S., many people see the bilateral statement as pointing in the right direction. “The way that this agreement is implemented still remains to be seen. But we have no reason to believe that the Canadian government is not going to include us as partners,” said Obed.