A U.s.-canada Climate Deal Falls Short
More has to be done by the two governments to stave off devastating global climate change
When the U.S. and Canada get together to fight climate change, they ought to be able to make a difference. But the joint effort they announced on March 10 to reduce methane emissions was underwhelming.
Methane emissions from oil and gas production—which the two countries agreed to cut by as much as 45 percent in a decade—make up less than 3 percent of total U.S. greenhousegas emissions and about 6 percent for Canada, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. And while both countries set much bigger goals in Paris last year—the U.S. pledged to cut greenhousegas emissions by 26 percent in a decade; Canada promised a 30 percent reduction in 15 years—neither has put in place a full set of policies to meet them. Even if they did, the reductions would fall far short of what’s needed to prevent devastating climate change. So what could the countries do to make more of a difference? In the U.S., the best policy would be to impose a revenueneutral carbon tax. Yet the current Congress would make this all but impossible. President Obama’s workaround is the Clean Power Plan, which moves the energy sector toward low-carbon fuel sources. Ideally, his successor will endorse this strategy and expand on it—for example, by investing more in nuclear power.
Canada has further to go. It’s made less progress than the U.S. in cutting emissions, and the declining fortunes of its oil and gas industry have reduced public appetite for ambitious change. Yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enjoys two distinct advantages: Canada’s political system allows a government with a majority of seats in Parliament to pass legislation with no support from the opposition, and the most populous provinces have already adopted or announced plans to put a price on carbon. The challenge is to combine those initiatives into a national approach that generates meaningful greenhouse-gas reductions. <BW>