A U.s.-canada Cli­mate Deal Falls Short

More has to be done by the two gov­ern­ments to stave off dev­as­tat­ing global cli­mate change

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Bloomberg View -

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>

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