The Dallas Morning News
Canadian touts clean-energy economics
Even climate change skeptics can appreciate opportunity, she says
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is often described as the “anti-Trump.” The most obvious contrast between the world leaders might have come last summer, when the young Liberal Party leader wore socks honoring the Muslim holiday of Ramadan to Toronto’s Gay Pride parade.
But when Trudeau’s Cabinet colleague toured Texas late last month, she found more similarities than differences between the two places.
Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, spent time meeting with Houston’s mayor, touring Texas universities, talking to the staff of BP’s Wind Energy Remote Operations Center and promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The visit to Texas — which didn’t include a stop in the Dallas area — was part of a larger U.S. tour to discuss climate change, clean energy and trade.
Even though the two national governments sit at opposite poles, McKenna said
her tour highlighted similarities between Texas and Canada. Her home country has plenty of oil and natural gas wealth but is also moving toward a lower-carbon future.
“We’re in a transition,” she said. “There’s going to be concerns around jobs and economic opportunities.”
The province of Alberta has a goal of 30 percent renewable energy by 2030 but is also home to 81 percent of the country’s energy resources. In many cases, she said, Alberta looks to Texas as a model.
“While Texas is obviously an oil and gas powerhouse, it’s also diversifying,” McKenna said. Until her visit to BP’s wind energy center in Houston, McKenna said, she was unaware that the state is the U.S. wind energy leader.
The similarities between Texas and Alberta go beyond their petroleum backbones. They are both home to two of the world’s largest and most prominent rodeos: the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Calgary Stampede.
President Donald Trump has described climate change as a hoax and often dismissed its seriousness. But McKenna said she didn’t see any of that attitude on her trip to the red state of Texas.
Even if she did, McKenna — once called “climate Barbie” by a right-wing Canadian website and by a member of that country’s Parliament — said she believes the more effective arguments are the practical and less combative ones.
“I’m sure there are people skeptical of acting on climate,” she said. “But there’s still the economic opportunity. The science is clear, but even if you take a different approach, there’s the economic opportunity for clean growth.”
Instead of talking about 2030 emissions targets, McKenna said, “you have to talk about the economic opportunities of jobs and how everyone can win.”
Also, she sees a different attitude from the younger generation.
“Young people, they want to figure out these issues,” she said. “They want to see leadership from business. They want to see leadership from government.”
McKenna said she was intrigued by research at the University of Houston, particularly the Hurricane Resilience Research Institute. She said Canadians can learn from Texas’ lessons after the devastating floods triggered by Hurricane Harvey.
“Coastal resilience is a really important issue for the world,” she said. “After Hurricane Harvey, there’s a lot of really important research.”
The minister also stopped by Texas A&M UniversityGalveston to meet with scientists studying the oceans. Before touring Texas, McKenna visited the Miami area, which regularly feels the effects of sea level rise created by climate change.
In her travels, McKenna has been spreading the word about the expanding carbon markets in Canada.
“Putting a price on what you don’t want — pollution — to get what you do want — lower emissions and innovation — is actually a small ‘c’ conservative approach,” she said.
There isn’t a state-mandated carbon trading program in Texas, but at least one voluntary one has emerged here. An East Coast cap-and-trade carbon market was created in 2009. And California is a part of a carbon market with the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
“We need to send signals to the market,” she said. “Ultimately, if we’re going to get the trillions of dollars moving toward clean growth, you need the market to be moving.”
Canadians in Texas
This was McKenna’s first visit to Texas since childhood, so the Lone Star experience was new. But she did find comfort in stumbling across plenty of Canadians in her travels.
“I actually spoke a bit of French here, too,” she said. “It just reinforces the ties between Canada and the U.S. at all levels, whether it’s business, government, the academics.”
But she didn’t get the opportunity to meet with one of the nation’s most prominent climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian who teaches at Texas Tech University.
“Katherine and I are Twitter friends,” she said. “We often get some abuse on Twitter, too. … She’s a great example of how you don’t make fun of people for having different views. You talk to them in a way that’s respectful. You’re not going to convince everyone in life. But people are reasonable. Give them a reason to be part of the solution.”